Cover image of "The Wolves," a novel about spies in Hong Kong

Now 82 years of age, Sheldon Adelson is the 18th richest person in the world, according to Forbes. His $28 billion fortune was built in the casino business in Las Vegas and Macao. Fanatically pro-Israel, he is best known to political observers in the U.S. as the individual who has given more money to influence an election than anyone else in the country’s history. He has also been accused of collaborating with Chinese mobsters in Macao. Now he appears in disguise in a novel about spies in Hong Kong.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Adelson’s stand-in

In Twelve Days, a novel by Alex Berenson, Adelson’s doppelganger, Aaron Duberman, undertakes an elaborate scheme to trick the United States into invading Iran, in the belief that this will somehow enhance Israel’s security. Berenson’s hero, John Wells, manages to foil the plot at the last minute with the help of his CIA handler, Ellis Shafer, and the former CIA Director and now Senator Vinny Duto. In Berenson’s latest novel, The Wolves, the trio launches a campaign to assassinate Duberman as payback for the lives lost before they managed to halt the plot. Only the President of the U.S. stands in their way. Not so coincidentally, Duberman had contributed $200 million to elect the President, far more than anyone else.

The Wolves (John Wells #10) by Alex Berenson (2016) 397 pages ★★★☆☆

Romping through Hong Kong and Macao

The scene in The Wolves shifts rapidly from Washington, DC, to Hong Kong and Macao. The cast of characters includes not just Duberman, Wells, Shafer, Duto, and the President of the U.S. but a

lso Duberman’s Israeli supermodel wife, his devoted personal guard, a Ukrainian arms dealer, three agents of the FSB, two Hong Kong policemen, a four-star general in the Chinese air force, and the President’s chief of staff. It’s difficult to imagine how any story featuring this star-studded cast in such an exotic setting could be anything but intriguing in the hands of such a skillful writer of espionage fiction as Alex Berenson. Indeed, the novel steadily builds suspense to the end. Still, I was underwhelmed with The Wolves.

So, what’s the matter with this novel?

From the beginning of Berenson’s John Wells series ten books ago, Wells has tackled dramatic challenges with life-or-death consequences for millions of people: foiling an Al Qaeda plot to set off a nuclear bomb in Times Square, helping uncover a mole in the CIA, and identifying the source of outside support for the Taliban.

As Berenson noted in an interview with following the publication of his fourth novel, “Over the course of his first three missions—chronicled in The Faithful Spy, The Ghost War, and The Silent Man—he’s been shot. Twice. He’s been beaten nearly to death in a prison in Beijing. Fought hand-to-hand against Russian special forces soldiers in a cave in Afghanistan. And repelled an assassination attempt in a traffic jam in Washington. And, of course, there was that time he was infected with the plague.” A plot to assassinate an aging billionaire doesn’t stack up to Berenson’s earlier books, no matter how much pain and suffering Wells experiences along the way.

About the author

Alex Berenson is one of the most gifted writers of espionage fiction actively writing today. I was enthralled by every one of the nine preceding novels in the John Wells series. A journalist by training and experience, Berenson reported for the New York Times from 1999 to 2008, when he turned to writing full-time. In addition to the John Wells series, he is the author of three nonfiction books. His work is widely recognized for the depth of his research.

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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