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Customer Review

16 April 2009
The Bin Laden clan, who gave the world its most wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden, live their lives under a shroud of secrecy in Saudi Arabia - one of the most closeted societies on the planet which is open to little scrutiny from beyond its borders. Yet the Bin Ladens, most notably their Saudi Bin Laden Group, props up with regularity investing around the World from this closeted hub. This book by the Pulitzer winning journalist Steve Coll, goes a considerable distance in addressing the information gap about this secretive family.

It is essentially split into four parts dealing with the clan patriarchs (Part I), its first sons and daughters (Part II), emergence of their global footprint (Part III) and its subsequent legacy (Part IV). The subject at hand has been methodically treated and the research is in-depth and honest. Coll's writing is gripping, yet it does not flirt with sensationalism.

It is worth pointing out that this title is not a book on Osama Bin Laden. Though he has been given due mention, Coll's work chronicles the Bin Laden clan's rise in the backdrop of oil, money, greed, power, patronage, Middle Eastern cultural contradictions and their time-warped daily life in deeply puritanical Saudi Arabia where the family principally banks and employs its wealth from.

The spirit of the construction company started by Mohammed Bin Laden, a Yemeni bricklayer, to the present day multibillion Dollar empire that his future generations have turned it into and the level of secrecy that surrounds it, is duly captured by this book. To contextualise the subject at hand, the author's research extends beyond the Bin Ladens to cover Saudi businesses in general, the country's Royal family and the Wahhabi ideology that ultimately spawned Osama and his ilk.

I found it to be well researched with solid facts as well as anecdotal evidence. The narrative is sound, though critically speaking at times it does hammer certain points more often than once to emphasise the author's chain of thought. However, that is probably to be expected as the book is in the genera of journalistic storytelling where the author's opinion is expected and ought to count. Overall, it is a very good read and well worth one's while if Middle Eastern socio-political landscape, oil wealth and its misgivings are of interest. Those looking for an insight into the elusive Bin Laden clan may look no further than this engaging work.
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