Alex Berenson’s John Wells takes on a rogue ex-CIA agent

The Counterfeit Agent in Alex Berenson's novel is a rogue ex-CIA agent.

The modern history of Iran and the US is fraught with conflict. Today, Americans vilify the ayatollahs who have governed Iran since its revolution in 1979. We’re all too likely to forget (assuming we ever knew in the first place) that the Iranian Revolution was in large part a consequence of the CIA operation to overthrow the elected prime minister of the country in 1953.


The Counterfeit Agent (John Wells #8) by Alex Berenson (2014) 386 pages

@@@@ (4 out of 5)


Then, a CIA task force led by Theodore Roosevelt’s grandson, Kermit Roosevelt Jr., engineered the removal of the secular democrat Mohammad Mossadegh. That enabled Iran’s monarch, Shah Reza Pahlevi, to reverse the nationalization of Western oil firms and assert his control of the Iranian people in increasingly brutal ways for nearly three decades. The Iran hostage crisis in the American Embassy in Tehran in 1979 was merely the first of a long string of conflicts between the two countries, some of which involved small-scale open warfare. (See The ugly US-Iran war, past, present, and future for my review of David Crist’s excellent book, The Twilight War: The Secret History of America’s Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran.)

Alex Berenson’s The Counterfeit Agent is one of two novels in his John Wells series that is set against the background of this ongoing high-stakes struggle. In a typically suspenseful tale, Wells takes on a rogue ex-CIA agent to head off war with Iran. Unfortunately, this is the first of two novels, and it ends with a cliffhanger. I enjoyed the book, but I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t unwittingly read the sequel first. The second of the novels, Twelve Days, opens with Iran and the US on the brink of war, exactly as the first had ended. (See In a nail-biting thriller, John Wells must stop a US war with Iran for my review of that novel.)

Like all the books in the John Wells series, The Counterfeit Agent rockets from one locale to another. The story unfolds in South Africa, Istanbul, Guatemala City, Hong Kong, Manila, Panama City, and Phuket (Thailand) as well as several locations within the United States. Clearly, Berenson is drawing on his own travels, at least some of them while working as a reporter for the New York Times. The descriptions of the foreign locales reek of authenticity.

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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If you enjoy reading history in fictional form, check out 20 most enlightening historical novels (plus dozens of runners-up). And if you’re looking for exciting historical novels, check out Top 10 historical mysteries and thrillers reviewed here.

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