When I read a spy story, I tend to look for credible characters and plausible plots as well as the usual fare offered up by the genre, such as suspense, exciting action, and (sometimes) exotic locales. In virtually all these ways, The Silent Man passes my litmus test as an excellent example of the craft — but one decision by the President of the United States, not even critical to the plot, struck me as so implausible and so dumb that it soured the final chapters.
However, there’s no denying that The Silent Man builds tension from its opening scenes inside Russia’s super-secret nuclear production complex to its conclusion in an utterly commonplace setting within the United States. The protagonist is soldier-spy John Wells, a former Ranger who spent a decade infiltrating Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and went on to work for the CIA, where he now hangs his proverbial hat.
The Silent Man — Wells himself, deeply troubled by his crumbling relationship with his partner and lover, Jennifer Exley — is the focus of much of the book, but through Alex Berenson’s pose as an omniscient narrator we roam through the minds of the Al Qaeda terrorists Wells is pursuing as well as his colleagues and rivals within the CIA and the hard-line officials at the top of Russia’s nuclear establishment. Every character in this book is portrayed with fine brush strokes, emerging as a fully rendered person who acts in understandable ways (with the sole exception of the aforementioned President).
The Silent Man (John Wells #3) by Alex Berenson (2009) 444 pages ★★★☆☆
The Silent Man is the third in Alex Berenson’s series about soldier-spy John Wells and his continuing efforts to keep the world safe for humanity.
For further reading
For links to my reviews of all the John Wells novels, see The 12 novels of Alex Berenson’s thrilling John Wells spy series.
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