We first met CIA agent John Wells in the book The Faithful Spy
. While it's not necessary to have read the first book, you need to know that Wells is a national hero after averting a terrorist attack on US soil. Now acting as a desk agent within the CIA, he craves the adrenalin rush that his former assignment provided.
"The Faithful Spy" was a good old-fashioned thriller. This book is in a similar vein, although it suffers somewhat from trying to cover too many bases. It kicks off with the CIA going into North Korea to rescue a valuable mole. This part of the story is genuinely tense and gripping. However the book loses momentum as it strains to juggle a complicated plot that encompasses (among other strands) the Iranian nuclear weapons programme, Taliban training camps in Afghanistan, an international arms dealer, the hunt for an undercover mole within the CIA and an ambitious General within the Chinese politburo. As with the first book, the pace gets bogged down by Berenson's need to personalize events by fleshing out even minor characters.
The first book set up the intriguing proposition of an agent who has lived undercover with the Taliban for so long that he struggles to adapt to the US way of life. In this book, that struggle seems forgotten and Wells' character is never particularly developed.
This is an action packed and highly contemporary read, but it fell short of the first book for me. Having said that, the ending sets up a sequel and I'll almost certainly be going back for more.
(Be aware that this book was published in the US under the title "The Ghost War")