three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
54-Sept-Oct-2011
user_rating: 
0

A-DevilsLightRichard North Patterson has published nearly 20 thrillers and mysteries since The Lasko Tangent appeared in 1979. Other novels include In the Name of Honor (2010), The Spire (2009), Eclipse ( 4 of 5 Stars Mar/Apr 2009), and Balance of Power (2003). In The Devil's Light, a CIA agent must outmaneuver al-Qaeda to keep the Middle East from going up in flames.

The Story: Saudi-born and educated in America, al-Qaeda operative Amer Al Zaroor masterminds the theft of a nuclear bomb from Pakistan and seals the deal by ordering suicide bombers to fly into the Taj Mahal and the Indian parliament. With the warhead set to detonate on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 (Osama bin Laden, who in this fictional world, still heads the organization, has made a pronouncement to that effect), CIA agent Brooke Chandler, stuck in Washington because of a blown cover, is the only person who can stop the carnage--if he can only convince the CIA and the White House that hell is about to be loosed in the Middle East. Alternating scenes involving Al Zaroor and Chandler, each on his own mission, heighten the suspense as Armageddon nears.
Scribner. 342 pp. $26. ISBN: 9781451616804.

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"Scrupulously researched and maybe the best thriller the San Francisco author has written. ... Patterson is a serious student of human psychology and world politics; he slows down the pace just enough to help us understand who and what is at stake besides our trembling selves, as we worry about where we might be if and when that rogue bomb explodes about a thousand feet above the ground we stand on." Alan Cheuse

San Antonio Exp-News 4 of 5 Stars
"Patterson pulls off a clever narrative trick as he brings all the story lines together for the climax. ... Even Patterson didn't foresee the revolutions that have swept numerous Muslim autocratic nations this year, but the background in The Devil's Light is still informative for readers." David Hendricks

Washington Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"For the most part, Patterson's story is skillfully told, with fine descriptions of the landscapes of the Middle East, particularly Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, where, amid Roman ruins--‘massive temples to Jupiter, Venus, Mercury and Bacchus'--the novel reaches a suspenseful climax. His characters are nicely drawn, and Chandler's love affair with an Israeli woman is particularly well handled." Patrick Anderson

NY Times Book Review 2.5 of 5 Stars
"The merit of [Patterson's] books, and what makes them occasionally lugubrious, is his effort to show off his research. ... Writers as distinct from Patterson as Rebecca West have used this narrative approach to excellent effect, but here it feels painfully choreographed." Isaac Chotiner

Critical Summary

As the New York Times Book Review attests, Richard North Patterson's greatest strength has always been his research. In places, that meticulous attention to the details, gleaned from the author's own visits to the region and observations from experts in international politics, can get in the way of moving the story forward ("Patterson runs the risk of losing some readers in this factional swamp in order to give his novel the seriousness he thinks his subject demands," Patrick Anderson writes, in an otherwise positive review). Still, Patterson is an old pro at building suspense, and The Devil's Light has more than its share. Despite the recent death of Osama bin Laden, the plausibility of the plot will keep readers enthralled.

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