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Body of Liesby David Ignatius
Synopses & Reviews
Roger Ferris is one of the CIA's soldiers in the war on terrorism. He has come out of Iraq with a shattered leg and an intense mission — to penetrate the network of a master terrorist known only as Suleiman. Ferris's plan for getting inside Suleiman's tent is inspired by a masterpiece of British intelligence during World War II: He prepares a body of lies, literally the corpse of an imaginary CIA officer who appears to have accomplished the impossible by recruiting an agent within the enemy's ranks.
This scheme binds friend and foe in a web of extraordinary subtlety and complexity, and when it begins to unravel, Ferris finds himself flying blind into a hurricane. His only hope is the urbane head of Jordan's intelligence service — a man who might be an Arab version of John le Carre's celebrated spy, George Smiley. But can Ferris trust him?
"Displaying his trademark expertise and writing skill, Washington Post columnist Ignatius (Agents of Innocence) has crafted one of the best post-9/11 spy thrillers yet. Subtly framing a highly elaborate plot, Ignatius tells the story of idealistic CIA agent Roger Ferris, newly stationed in Jordan after being wounded in Iraq. After a failed initiative to flush out a terrorist mastermind known as Suleiman, Ferris, who's dedicated to forestalling further al-Qaeda attacks, develops an intricate scheme modeled after a British plan used successfully against the Nazis. Ferris's plot to turn the terrorists against each other by sowing seeds of suspicion that their leaders are collaborating with the Americans puts his personal life in turmoil and threatens his professional relationship with the head of Jordanian intelligence. Few readers will anticipate the jaw-dropping conclusion, and the pairing of first-rate espionage suspense with fully developed characters should propel this onto the bestseller lists and possibly attract Hollywood interest. Author tour. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"David Ignatius must have one of those passports with extra visa pages in the middle. In the course of his new spy novel, 'Body of Lies,' the hero, CIA man Roger Ferris, travels to Berlin, Amman, Iraq, back to Langley, Rome, Geneva, Abu Dhabi, Beirut, the Jordan Valley, Ankara, Aleppo, Tripoli, Nicosia and Damascus. All of these locales are described in convincing detail, and the wealth of smells,... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) colors, street names and foods convinces us that Ferris is actually there — and so are we. It has been eight years since the appearance of the last book by Ignatius, who writes a column for The Washington Post — the underappreciated 'Sun King' — and, of course, in that time the world has changed utterly. For the clever, young Ferris, every day 'now and forever is the day after September 11, 2001.' A master terrorist known only as Suleiman has been planting car bombs all over Western Europe; Ferris is tasked with penetrating Suleiman's cell and capturing, killing or discrediting the man himself. Ferris is not as ethically conflicted as many a contemporary thriller hero, and although the people he works with are of dubious morality, he himself remains focused on the task at hand. When things take an unpleasant turn or the innocent get hurt, Ferris forces himself to remember the people on the upper floors of the World Trade Center. After reliving the horror of 9/11, he recites his personal mantra: 'This is a war. ... You are a soldier. More people will die unless you do your job.' Using a ruse that British intelligence fooled the Nazis with in World War II, Ferris begins to worm his way inside Suleiman's network. After being wounded in a bombing in Iraq, he recuperates in one of the more pleasant wings of Walter Reed Army Medical Center. And as he gets better, his marriage begins to fall apart. He seems curiously unfazed by this, but back in Amman, Jordan, we discover that he is already falling for another woman. Ferris is an interesting character — idealistic, passionate, wholly believable — and his adventures make for a story that is fast-paced and psychologically deep. Ignatius has taken his time over this book and is confident enough in his material to keep the gadgetry and technical jargon to a minimum. The novel, however, is not without flaws. Ignatius seems to have swallowed whole the Edward Said pill and made a conscious decision that he will not resort to cliche or condescension in his descriptions of the Middle East. As a result, he bends over backward to portray his Arab characters as wise, honorable and decent. We find few instances of anti-Semitism in any of the Arab countries Ferris visits, and even in the misery of a Palestinian refugee camp, we see only fading Yasser Arafat posters rather than venomous anti-Jewish slogans or Hamas hate graffiti. At times, Ignatius seems almost embarrassed that his villain is an actual Arab terrorist (albeit one with a high IQ and a warped sense of morality), but he needn't be: His portrayal of the Arab world is sensitive, and no one is going to confuse David Ignatius of The Post with the overnight man on Fox News. The sexual mores of al-Qaeda's disciples are gently mocked, but the reverent tone toward Islam echoes that of the pious Crusades movie 'Kingdom of Heaven' (2005), and it is perhaps not surprising that 'Body of Lies' has already been optioned for that film's director, Ridley Scott. The book is well researched, but even seasoned reporters sometimes nod. The Jordanian city of Petra was not built by the Romans, as Ignatius implies, but by the semi-nomadic Nabateans; the British evacuation at Dunkirk took place in 1940, not 1939; the gold dome on the Jerusalem plateau known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the noble sanctuary belongs to the Dome of the Rock, not the nearby al-Aqsa Mosque; and the outskirts of Jerusalem cannot be seen from the Dead Sea, despite what the tour guides tell you. Still, in a thriller, these are quibbles. The last third of the book moves very quickly, and the tension becomes palpable. The denouement is surprising, exciting and effective. After being blown up, shot at, kidnapped and tortured, Ferris must suffer yet more horrors to finally get his man, and by this stage we are rooting for him all the way. A sterner editor would have cut the final few pages and made the ending of 'Body of Lies' more fashionably open-textured and incomplete, but I liked Ignatius' take: Ferris may be young, but he is throwback to an earlier time, and the ending suits him. Hollywood will like it, too. The book works extremely well, and its imagery and characters linger in the memory. We need gifted and intelligent thriller writers like David Ignatius. One hopes that he has another book in the planning stage and is already filling in form DS-4085, requesting yet more visa pages for his well-worn passport." Reviewed by Carolyn See, who can be reached at www.carolynsee.comRachel Hartigan Shea, a contributing editor of The Washington Post Book WorldAdrian McKinty, author of seven novels, including his most recent thriller, 'The Bloomsday Dead', Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"Many spy novelists are still adjusting to the post-9/11 world, but Mr. Ignatius has made the transition handily, no doubt aided by the fact that more than two decades ago he was already alive to the dangers brewing." Wall Street Journal
"[Ignatius] skillfully creates the sights and sounds and emotions of wartime Middle East, and its deceptions and desires, taking us on a tour from Jordan to Iraq to Germany to Turkey and Washington." Dallas Morning News
"Ignatius falls into the same trap that snared so many of his predecessors, from Ian Fleming to even the hallowed John Le Carre: creating female characters and romantic relationships that trade on the most cartoonish of stereotypes." St. Petersburg Times
"The novel reads like an insider's narrative, which propels the clever and crafty yarn every step of the way." Providence Journal
A tale of counterterrorism from an author who "ranks with Graham Greene in his knowledge of espionage and the human heart" ().
The novel made into the major motion picture released October 2008, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe: "Clever [and] well-paced, Body of Liesis hard to put down."'"John Miller, Wall Street Journal
About the Author
David Ignatius, a prize-winning columnist for the Washington Post, has been covering the Middle East and the CIA for more than twenty-five years. He is the author of several novels, including Agents of Innocence.
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