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March 25, 2005

'The Unknown Soldier' — by Gerald Seymour


I've been reading this at bedtime the past several weeks and should finish it tonight.

It's a superb thriller, told by a British author some of whose previous work I've read but found formulaic.

It's been a number of years, though, and this new one got great reviews, so I took a flyer.

Engrossing beyond belief.

The story concerns the journey of a potential suicide bomber, born and raised in Britain but turned by events into a hater of Western civilization, as he makes his way around the world attempting to elude a dragnet employing every bit of Western technology and humint available to track him down before he takes possession of his weapon for his mission of terror.

Much of the story takes place in Saudi Arabia's "Empty Quarter": the events there are so absorbing, so realistic-seeming, that you feel as if you have a small sense of what it might be like to actually be there.

But, judging from the unbelievable harshness of the place as so vividly described by Seymour, I emphasize the word "small."

I put this book in the pantheon of post 9/11 terrorism-related tales, along with Lorraine Adams' superb "Harbor."

I now rank Seymour with John le Carré as the two finest living writers of spy thrillers.

Charles McCarry, whose 1974 book "The Tears of Autumn" is still the best fictional treatment of the assassination of John F. Kennedy I've ever read — and I've read countless such novels — has sadly lost his way and devolved into writing amusing, outlandish, picaresque tales with only a modicum of spycraft.

March 25, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink


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