Just when John Wells is happy with life and ready to walk away from the world of covert operations, he’s sucked back in for his toughest mission yet.
Following The Wolves (2016), Alex Berenson’s eleventh novel shows a new side of John Wells. For starters, he’s content with where his life is at. Following a brief period of living like a hermit, far from civilization and totally off the grid, Wells’ life changed abruptly after he received news that he’s a father.
After moving to New Hampshire to help care for his daughter, Wells makes peace with his recent decision to retire, made possible by recently coming into a large sum of money. He starts to relax and forms a special bond with his daughter, constantly turning down various requests and inquiries from anyone connected to his former life–including the president-elect–unwilling to revisit who he used to be.
Meanwhile, a team of CIA operatives is ambushed behind enemy lines, shedding light on the chilling reality that there’s a high-ranking mole within the Central Intelligence Agency.
When a blast from the past makes unexpected contact, Wells agrees to an overseas meeting to hear out a source who demanded a face-to-face meeting. Kissing his daughter and the newfound joy that’s rooted in his life with her goodbye, Wells promises to be back soon.
A promise he quickly realizes he won’t be able to keep.
Instead, Wells views credible information that suggests someone inside the CIA is funneling operation intel to ISIS and decided he cannot sit back and do nothing. After some dialogue with Vinny Duto, the new president, and longtime friend and colleague, Ellis Shafer, a plan is put into place.
Wells, the only American operative to successfully infiltrate al Qaeda during an undercover operation many years prior (the events of which were detailed in Berenson’s first novel, The Faithful Spy), now agrees to go back undercover to befriend a terrorist being held in a Bulgarian prison.
Longtime fans of Berenson’s series will recall that Wells actually converted to Islam during that undercover operation, which ultimately led to those around him questioning his loyalty to America. Since then, Wells has proven where he stands numerous times, which is on the front lines as the United States’ most lethal weapon to combat terrorism.
Berenson’s best work takes place during the prison scenes, where he mixes raw emotion with nonstop suspense. Not only does Wells work to get close to the high-ranking ISIS member who can feed him info on who the CIA’s leak is, but he also discovers that the terrorist group is planning a large-scale attack, which he must work to prevent from behind bars.
As Wells’ plan slowly unravels with nothing going according to the script, the narrative bounces between a fantastic secondary cast of characters. Berenson provides a glimpse inside the terrorists’ planned attack, but also gives plenty of screen time to Ellis Shafer, who manages the entire situation from back in Washington.
With a firm cover and backstory, Wells is treated like any other prisoner in the facility that houses mostly jihadists–which means he’s treated horribly and endures hellish conditions that would break most men. But John Wells ain’t most men, and it’s quickly apparent that his greatest comfort zone isn’t at home with family, but when his back is up against the wall.
Taking Wells back to the very scenario that introduced him to readers a decade ago was a brilliant move by Berenson, who remains one of the elite thriller authors in the genre today. The Prisoner is a fiery, high-powered political thriller that starts fast and never lets up.
Author: Alex Berenson
Pages: 432 (Hardcover)
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: January 31, 2017 (Order Now!)