Out of the first five novels that Alex Berenson has written, The Secret Soldier is my favorite, second to The Faithful Spy. In The Secret Soldier the central John Wells character has finally had enough of the manipulation and lies from his bosses at the CIA. He quits the agency and retreats to a small mountain town in New Hampshire to pause and reflect on his life. After a few months even a loner like Wells gets lonely, and he eventually meets a local deputy sheriff who takes a chance on letting him into her life. As Wells and his new lady friend get to know each other better, a mysterious offer for a lucrative job appears. $1,000,000 just to travel and hear the prospective employer give his pitch for Well’s help. A million just to show up? I know I would take that deal, and John Wells does too. He finds himself working for the king of Saudi Arabia. The king knows his kingdom will descend into chaos and fundamentalism if the throne is not passed to his son when he dies. Wells has to work with the king to stop the enemies among the king’s close relatives and eventually has to embrace help from the CIA again to save the kingdom.
This book has some great history and succinct summaries of politics in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I actually learned a good bit of how the Kingdom works and how the factions and families interact in a society still very based on tribal norms and customs. This history and cultural exploration made this book outstanding.
The different plot and political landscape of this make it a refreshing twist from more typical plotlines in this type of novel. Tolle, lege.
The first chapter of the book is available from Alex Berenson’s website here.