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The Prisoner

Cover of The Prisoner

The Prisoner

John Wells Series, Book 11
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To unmask a CIA mole, John Wells must resume his old undercover identity as an al Qaeda jihadi—and hope he can survive it—in this cutting-edge novel from the #1 New York Times-bestselling author.

It is the most dangerous mission of John Wells's career.
Evidence is mounting that someone high up in the CIA is doing the unthinkable—passing messages to ISIS, alerting them to planned operations. Finding out the mole's identity without alerting him, however, will be very hard, and to accomplish it, Wells will have to do something he thought he'd left behind forever. He will have to reassume his former identity as an al Qaeda jihadi, get captured, and go undercover to befriend an ISIS prisoner in a secret Bulgarian prison.
Many years before, Wells was the only American agent ever to penetrate al Qaeda, but times have changed drastically. The terrorist organizations have multiplied: gotten bigger, crueler, more ambitious and powerful. Wells knows it may well be his death sentence. But there is no one else.
To unmask a CIA mole, John Wells must resume his old undercover identity as an al Qaeda jihadi—and hope he can survive it—in this cutting-edge novel from the #1 New York Times-bestselling author.

It is the most dangerous mission of John Wells's career.
Evidence is mounting that someone high up in the CIA is doing the unthinkable—passing messages to ISIS, alerting them to planned operations. Finding out the mole's identity without alerting him, however, will be very hard, and to accomplish it, Wells will have to do something he thought he'd left behind forever. He will have to reassume his former identity as an al Qaeda jihadi, get captured, and go undercover to befriend an ISIS prisoner in a secret Bulgarian prison.
Many years before, Wells was the only American agent ever to penetrate al Qaeda, but times have changed drastically. The terrorist organizations have multiplied: gotten bigger, crueler, more ambitious and powerful. Wells knows it may well be his death sentence. But there is no one else.
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  • From the book Prologue

    Harran, Turkey

    The horses knew.
    They shied and stumbled as the Syrian smuggler named Mahmoud led them out of the battered trailer. Four brown geldings, wide-eyed and frightened. Resigned to trouble ahead. Kareem Batta didn't know how, but they knew.
    The tallest of the four, a handsome youngster with a white blaze on his left flank, was bolder than the others, or more skittish. As his front hooves touched the crumbly Anatolian soil, he swished his head, pushed back up the ramp. But Mahmoud jerked his reins and muttered at him. After a moment he quit the protest.
    The beasts feared the men around them even more than the trip they were about to take. They were gentle animals. Batta didn't like using them this way. But he had no choice. They were the best way over the border into Syria, the only realistic way to avoid the Islamic State's jihadis. Those modern-day trolls watched the roads from every angle, with checkpoints and rolling patrols and even drones. They needed no excuse but their black flags to snatch unlucky travelers.
    Batta circled the geldings, examining them like a trainer at a yearling auction. He was hardly an expert on horses. He'd grown up in a two-bedroom apartment in Detroit. But he'd ridden enough in the last five years to spot trouble. These four looked strong, sturdier than the ones Mahmoud had brought before. They breathed easily despite the early afternoon heat. Their backs were straight, their eyes bright. Not like other nags smugglers had tried to foist on him. Batta had learned to check the hard way, after a mount dropped under him on a rocky trail in the Anti-Lebanon Range, two hundred miles and a dozen front lines southwest of here. He had left the four-legged corpse behind and staggered out of Syria on a broken foot.
    "Think I bring losers?" Mahmoud said in English. "When my brother and I go, too?" He was a skinny twenty-something who wore black jeans and motorcycle boots. His brother Ajmad was even skinnier and even younger, with a wispy mustache and smooth cheeks. They had taken Batta to Syria twice before, first to meet a Kurdish commander, an easy run, then a riskier mission to scout a warehouse where hostages were supposedly being held. The warehouse had turned out to be an ammunition depot, but the brothers brought Batta back to Turkey with his head attached. A win. A tie, anyway.
    Batta still didn't entirely trust Mahmoud. But Batta didn't entirely trust anyone over here except his brothers-in-arms from the Central Intelligence Agency's Special Operations Group. Even the Turkish intelligence service played both sides. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the Free Syrian Army, the Martyrs of Syria Brigades, the Soldiers of Islam, the People's Protection Unit, and a hundred others... In Syria and Kurdistan, outsiders couldn't tell the players with a program. Sometimes even the combatants were confused. Batta had once seen a firefight sputter out after the commanders realized that their bosses had agreed to a cease-fire the week before. A cosmic joke, even if the guy who'd been shot in the head wasn't laughing.
    Mahmoud pulled a bag of sugar cubes, gave two to each gelding. "Good boys," he said to Batta. "A little scared, but they'll be fine once we move."
    "They're not bad," Batta said in Arabic. Though he'd been born in Michigan, he was fluent, thanks to his parents, immigrants from Jordan who spoke the language exclusively at home. "I've seen worse, anyway." He ran his hand over the blaze on the tall gelding's flank. Sorry, buddy. If it makes you feel any better, I'm nervous too. ...
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 28, 2016
    Edgar-winner Berenson’s 11th John Wells novel (after 2016’s The Wolves) reinforces his status as one of today’s steadiest practitioners of quality spy fiction. The aging but always-ready Wells comes out of a short-lived retirement in North Conway, N.H., where he lives with his two-year-old daughter, to root out the identity of a top CIA official suspected of handing U.S. secrets to ISIS and other terror networks. On orders from U.S. president Vinny Duto (a former CIA colleague) and his longtime handler of sorts, Ellis Shafer, Wells devises a plan to place himself in a Bulgarian prison that’s largely populated by terrorists. There, Wells begins his undercover campaign to extract information from top jihadists about who the CIA mole may be, as well as any terrorist plots currently in the works. The action culminates smartly with Wells frantically trying to stop a sarin attack in Paris. Wells is an appealing combination of brains and brawn, and Shafer remains an active behind-the-scenes player who knows how to keep an operation on course. Agent: Bob Barnett, Williams & Connolly.

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The Prisoner
The Prisoner
John Wells Series, Book 11
Alex Berenson
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