Al Qaeda from the inside out: a thriller filled with suspense

Al-Qaeda: A Faithful Spy by Alex BerensonJohn Wells is the only CIA operative ever to succeed in infiltrating Al Qaeda. Now, after a decade undercover in Afghanistan and Chechnya, he finally appears to have gained the confidence of the group’s top leaders. Summoned to an audience with Ayman al-Zawahiri, Wells is dispatched to the USA to play a key role in a terrorist plot to rival 9/11.


The Faithful Spy (John Wells #1) by Alex Berenson (2006) 352 pages

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As the story unfolds, we learn that Wells is no longer trusted by the CIA — with the exception of his handler, Jennifer Exley, with whom he is in love. Nor is he trusted by the brilliant Al Qaeda agent to whom he has been assigned, known to him only as Omar Khadri. Wells must maneuver between these two poles of suspicion, all the while fighting to survive, preserving his relationship with Exley, and exploring the depths of the Islamic faith he adopted in Afghanistan.

The Faithful Spy has all the elements of a best-selling thriller, and so it was. An Edgar Award winner when it was published in 2006, the book rose to #1 on the Times’ paperback bestseller list. It was followed by four more novels, all of them featuring John Wells, several of them bestsellers in their own right.

Alex Berenson was an investigative reporter for more than a decade for The New York Times, serving for nearly a year in Iraq but focusing largely on business issues. Since last year, he has been working full-time as a novelist. Berenson is not yet 40, so we can look forward to many more adventures with John Wells.

For links to my reviews of all the John Wells novels, see The 12 novels of Alex Berenson’s thrilling John Wells spy series.

For further reading

For reviews of other books on this topic, read 13 eye-opening books about terrorism.

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