In The Silent Man Berenson pulls his John Wells fiction franchise back from suspicions he had jumped the shark with The Ghost War. In this novel Berenson takes a swing at the one plot line every spy series has to tackle – saving the homeland from a nuclear attack.
The plot summary is fairly straightforward – Islamic radicals steal some Russian nuclear weapons, import them into the US, and then fail at the last minute with their dastardly plot, foiled by none other than John Wells. The real strength of this novel is in the details of how the weapons are obtained. Berenson’s well developed characters show how social engineering is the weakest link in the security of the special weapons. He does a good job of making those characters believable, and fleshes out many of their motivations. Realistically, though, the initial set of thieves who engineered the actual theft of the nukes is killed, ending the work he put into developing them.
Another plus for the plot and thinking behind the novel is that the weapons do not enter the US through Mexico, nearly a plot stereotype (latest example – Act of Valor). Thank you Alex for giving a different view of the possibilities!
I give this novel a solid B-. While I wouldn’t read it again, I appreciated that Berenson did not spend several chapters talking about the intimate technical details of building nuclear weapon (i.e. Sum of All Fears). The action was pretty good, but the character of John Wells did not develop much. The only main character development for him is he starts to realize that he is viewed as a useful pawn to some people. Problem is, John Wells is really a rook, so when he slides sideways on his masters it throws them for a loop.
The first chapter of the book is available on Alex Berenson’s website here.