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Book review- "The Secret Soldier" by Alex Berenson

Elise Cooper for BLACKFIVE.

Alex Berenson’s latest novel, The Secret Soldier, is a gripping tale and might be Berenson’s finest work to date.  The novel examines the issue of mortality, power, and succession of leadership.  King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is reaching his final days and chooses as his successor his son which is at odds with some of the several members of the Saudi Family.

Surrounding the main plot are several sub-plots, one of which involves an Islamist extremist Saudi Prince who tries to gain power by pushing through an agenda that is anti-American and pro terrorist.  Readers are able to relate this story to the events currently happening in Egypt.  Berenson told Blackfive.net that King Abdullah in the book and the former Egyptian President Mubarak are “powerful men who have everything but can’t stop themselves from getting old and slowly losing their grip on their nation. There is this Shakespearean element in the tragedy of getting old and losing your power.” 

John Wells returns as the main character.  Wells, the former Army officer and CIA operative is asked by Abdullah to investigate who in the Kingdom is trying to create events that will bring about the King’s downfall.  Berenson skillfully brings the story to life by explaining to the reader the history behind the Saudi Arabian monarchy. 

Although John Wells has a new love interest, Anne, her role is limited to romantic scenes.  Berenson commented that “the recent books have become male dominated and as I move forward in writing more Wells’ books that is something I have to think about.”

In many of his books, and this one is no different, John Wells is presented as a real life character.  Berenson wants his readers to understand that the hero does not always win and is not a super hero.  Wells is written, according to Berenson, as “a compelling character not as the traditional action hero.  He is more introspective, a searcher.”

The Secret Soldier is a compelling, insightful, action packed book.  Berenson was able to look at the rulers of the Arab World and explore how the regimes could lose their power.  His main character is well developed and an intriguing personality.  Anyone who wants a good political thriller with a very realistic scenario should definitely read this book.