Iran and the United States are on the brink of war. A cache of Highly Enriched Uranium has turned up in Istanbul, and the evidence points to Iran as its source. After Iranian-funded terrorists down a US airliner over Mumbai with two ground-to-air missiles, killing hundreds, the US President issues an ultimatum: Tehran must open its nuclear facilities to international inspectors within twelve days, or the United States will invade. The US military quickly begins amassing an invasion force in Turkey, Afghanistan, and the Persian Gulf. Anxious eyes watch the clock all around the world.
Enter John Wells, a heroic former Special Forces soldier and CIA officer with a long history of high-profile successes in the field. Though the CIA and the White House are convinced that the uranium is Iranian in origin, Wells isn’t. Neither are his former case officer, Ellis Shafer, or the recently ousted former Director of Central Intelligence, Vinny Duto. Believing that someone is trying to trick the US into invading Iran, they begin a high-speed investigation which takes Wells and Duto to Hong Kong, Ukraine, Russia, Israel, and South Africa to locate the source of the uranium. The tale is full of nail-biting suspense and attention to detail that brings to life both the book’s settings and the description of decision-making at the highest level of government.
Twelve Days (John Wells #9) by Alex Berenson (2015) 422 pages @@@@@ (5 out of 5)
Wells, Shafer, and Duto are familiar to all readers of the John Wells series. In Twelve Days, Alex Berenson gives a co-starring role as the bad guy to an aging casino tycoon named Aaron Duberman, who is a dead ringer for the real-life pro-Israel activist Sheldon Adelson, who is 81 at this writing. Both are billionaires thirty times over, both contributed nearly $200 million to elect a Republican president in 2012, both own major casinos in Las Vegas and Macao, and both are what can only be described as fanatical supporters of the State of Israel. (Berenson dodges libel charges by naming Adelson as Duberman’s competitor in Macao.) Though he might fit just as well as the villain in a James Bond story, Duberman is drawn in three dimensions, and what happens in Twelve Days bears no resemblance to the absurd events in the Bond books and films. This is a superior thriller, with (almost) believable characters.
Alex Berenson’s experience reporting on foreign affairs for the New York Times informs the craft in Twelve Days and other novels in the John Wells series. He is well acquainted with the settings where he places his stories, and he understands the dynamics at work in international relations. As a former reporter, too, he has a fine sense of headline-grabbing topics. He could hardly have picked a more timely subject than he did in Twelve Days.
For additional 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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