Author(s): David Ignatius
An anonymous email arrives via the CIA's website: someone on the inside of Iran's nuclear program is apparently ready to talk. Harry Pappas, head of the Agency's Iran desk, knows that if the contact is real, he's looking at the intelligence coup of the decade. But the unconfirmed information his informant brings starts a clock ticking in Washington: the government hawks want to use it to justify a pre-emptive strike against Iran.
Derek Dryden of Better Read Than Dead writes:
Isn't Iran just the flavour of the moment? David Ignatius is a prize-winning columnist for the Washington Post and he's been covering the Middle East for over 25 years. His writing is careful, considered, but with an underlying degree of truth that underpins his story. I really enjoyed his last book, Body of Lies, and the movie with Leonardo Di Caprio and Russell Crow wasn't too bad either. That novel showed the difficulties of the spook on the ground, struggling to hold onto his resources and often his life, while those back at head office shuffle the deckchairs endlessly.
This is the story of Harry Pappas, a somewhat sidelined CIA chief of the Iran Operations Division. Harry has been wounded by the loss of his only son in Iraq, and has been pulled from the field for the job of running Persian House. With no resources on the ground in Iran, Harry and his team can only wait and observe, until one day a message comes through the CIA website. A scientist in Iran's missile program has sent secret and potentially explosive information to the CIA. So begins a gentle game of cat and mouse as Harry starts to woo this potential contact. The information is red hot. It suggests that the Iranians are much further forward with their nuclear program that the Americans thought. Harry proceeds slowly but the guys in National Security are hot to trot. They want to release the information and bomb Iran - a move that Harry knows will just get his informant killed sooner rather later.
In cooperation with a British team of irregulars called The Increment, Harry makes contact with the Iranian scientist and begins to debrief him. But nothing is what it seems in the world of spy and counter-spy and very soon, just like Roger Ferris in Body of Lies, Harry Pappas is being out manoeuvred by those above him.
It's a very believable spy thriller that John Le Carre would have been happy to have written. Let's hope there's plenty more stories like this one left in David Ignatius.