Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Afghan - Frederick Forsyth

The Afghan
Frederick Forsyth


The accidental use of a flagged cell phone leads counter-terrorism forces to a tiny apartment in Peshawar. Inside the apartment, they find a few low level bodyguards, and a man who would rather throw himself out the window than be taken alive. A quick search turns up his identity: the top financial man for bin Laden’s faction. Before he jumped, he tried to destroy his laptop, but failed. Putting together the pieces of this incredible find now occupies intelligence agencies around the world.

It soon becomes clear that a major attack is being planned. Only disparate facts are available; to get the big picture, intelligence needs someone on the inside. For this job, there’s only one man to hire. Colonel Mike Martin, recently retired, has the looks, the language skills, and the cultural knowledge to go undercover. His identity will be a known terrorist currently being held at Guantanamo Bay. As he gets closer to the truth, the stakes, both personal and global only increase.

Forsyth will probably always be known for THE DAY OF THE JACKAL and THE ODESSA FILE, classics of espionage fiction, and rightly so. In comparison to those two works, THE AFGHAN is fairly pedestrian. There were some strange inconsistencies. Without getting into spoilers, the various intelligence agencies spend more than half the book desperately trying to pinpoint the target of the planned attack. When they manage it, it seems blindingly obvious, which probably explains why no mention of the target was made before; the reader would have figured it out immediately.

On the very strong positive side, even a par effort from Forsyth easily outstrips the best efforts of most of his competitors. There’s a lot of fascinating information about the various factions, and the faith and motivation of terrorists. None of it is presented as excuses; far from it. And the information is presented in a form that’s quite easy to understand. Anyone looking for a good spy thriller should enjoy THE AFGHAN.

Rating: 8
August 2007
ISBN# 978-0-451-22183-4 (paperback)


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