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The hero of Berenson’s captivating John Wells series may be the most under-appreciated man on earth. Working as an deep-cover C.I.A. agent — and, later, as an independent contractor — John Wells risks life and limb nearly every day of his life, accomplishing practically super-human feats of bravery and courage to save the world over and over again. Does he come home to a hero’s welcome? On the contrary: Half the time he returns to reprisals for having exposed somebody’s political butt. With John Wells, Berenson has created an unusual protagonist: Working undercover inside Al Qaeda for ten years in Afghanistan, speaking fluent Arabic, John Wells embraced Islam as his own religion, while rejecting the jihadist mentality. A quote from “Twelve Days” expresses his ambivalence about his faith:
“[Wells] didn’t believe for a minute that Mohammed had received messages straight from Allah, yet he sometimes sensed divine inspiration in the text … But contradictions and digressions filled the Koran’s lesser chapters — verses that sounded sweet in Arabic, but could barely be translated into any other language. Only a truly confident god would allow such malarky in his revealed word: ‘I command you to believe, no matter what I say!’.”
Throughout the John Wells series, we see a strange, symbiotic, love/hate mélange-à-trois developing between three of the main characters: Wells, the doer; Ellis Shafer, the Thinker; and Vinnie Duto, the Networker. Between the three of them, they always manage to accomplish what none of them could do alone … even though they don’t always like each other very much! This “holy trinity” solidifies in “Twelve Days,” which picks up one day after where “The Counterfeit Agent” left off. Although Berenson does briefly summarize the back-story from “The Counterfeit Agent” at the beginning of “Twelve Days” — via flashbacks and conversations — I highly recommend that you listen to “The Counterfeit Agent” before you listen to “Twelve Days,” as the two really constitute one novel. In fact, I strongly suggest that you start at the beginning of the series — with “The Faithful Spy,” an Edgar-Award-winning hum-dinger, by the way — and listen to the entire series in sequence. If you love thrillers, you won’t regret springing for this series! Typically, the end of “Twelve Days” sets us up for the next installment, which has not yet been published, as of this writing. I can’t wait!
I count Alex Berenson high among my Favorite Authors (The list also includes Michael Connelly, Lee Childs, Elizabeth Peters, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, to name just a few.), and I always look forward to the next John Wells adventure. I admire Alex Berenson for both his excellent writing-and-plotting skills and his extensive knowledge of current geo-political events. Berenson knows what is going on behind the headlines — as well he might, having studied history and economics at Yale, then having worked for fourteen years as a political correspondent and investigative reporter. This knowledge lends his novels a level of verisimilitude that makes them shine among thrillers. Narrator George Guidall, as always, does a fine job performing “Twelve Days.” Although Guidall lacks the skill with accents that might have enhanced this performance — “Twelve Days” could have benefited from a good Russian accent and a good South African accent — Guidall has the professional sense to not attempt bad accents; but, rather, distinguish characters with a variety of voices — which skill he does have. “Twelve Days” gives us an excellent audiobook, well-performed.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
If you have followed the development of John Wells as a character and you like Berenson's style of writing, this is an audiobook that should not be missed.
Berenson has consistently been able to insert a core group realistic but flawed characters into well-developed, exciting plots that reflect current international intrigues. Though Wells and his allies are often bound together by circumstance rather than choice, it's hard not to "pull" for them – even like them for what they are.
For audiobook listeners white myself, continuing to use George Guidall as the performer is a big plus. Not only does Guidall master of a wide range of voices, language and accents, he also understands story pace and transitions.
A reader can start with this ninth novel about John Wells and still be satisfied – though it probably makes more sense to have read/listened to prior novels to appreciate the life transitions of the protagonists.
I look forward to Berenson's next John Wells release.
12 of 13 people found this review helpful