I have spent most of the last seven months immersed in either France's Belle Epoque or the roaring 1920s, with occasional readings on other historical periods. Thus, I thought it was time to shake things a bit because I wasn't making much progress with the last two books I had been reading. From my ever growing TBR list I chose The Shadow Patrol by Alex Berenson, a fictional account of the Afghan war.
In 2009, the CIA recruited a Jordanian doctor to infiltrate al-Qaeda. Initially the doctor offered some valuable information that led to the execution of mid-level insurgents. Then, in a twist of fate, the doctor strapped explosives to his body and killed, in the process, high functionaries of CIA's Kabul station in a military compound where a meeting was going to take place.
Two years later the Kabul station is still reeling from the loss. They have been left behind in the search for high level al-Qaeda operatives. The director of the CIA believes there's a mole that has infiltrated Kabul station, but no one is talking. Vinny Dutto, the CIA director, sends former CIA agent John Wells to Afghanistan to investigate, and what he uncovers is enough to question friends and foes alike.
Oh boy! I wanted to read something different and I got more than I bargained for. I'm not sure I liked The Shadow Patrol enough, but it was rather due to its subject than any fault of the author. The pacing was steady and the action unpredictable most times, and the characters were fleshed out and credible. As a thriller, this novel was a solid four, but I feel I spent this last week in a war zone, that being the double edge sword that makes me feel torn as I finished The Shadow Patrol.
War is brutal, I know that, but I got a full immersion in the Afghan war, complete with Army acronyms, a homicidal Special Forces sniper, and major drug trafficking between mid-level al-Qaeda members and crooked army officers. I know there are bad apples anywhere, but I hold the US Army and its members in great esteem, and to imagine army personnel in that kind of scenario is simply something I'd rather not do. That being said, if you are willing to overlook that plot detail, it is possible that you gain more insight into the Afghan war than you ever did through the evening news.