Richard North Patterson has enjoyed several decades of success writing in a number of different genres. Initially gaining acclaim in the legal thriller arena, he has spent recent years exploring political dramas, military court potboilers and straight-out murder mysteries. With the release of THE DEVIL'S LIGHT, he was required to explore a combination of challenging topics ranging from intelligence, counterterrorism, nuclear proliferation, espionage, the complexities of Lebanon, and the nature of al Qaeda and Hezbollah.
This was no easy task and one that was only accomplished through Patterson immersing himself in Middle Eastern culture and having the luxury of penning this novel during a turbulent time in the world media where the Wikileaks disclosures brought previously unpublished, top-secret military information to light. Too much info is not necessarily a good thing --- and the characters in THE DEVIL'S LIGHT are faced with that same dilemma.
Osama bin Laden is still alive and well, and his deadly vision of the destruction of both the Western world and Israel remain tops on his agenda. His inner circle includes skilled plotters who have the proven ability to mastermind worldwide terror in little to no time. Bin Laden studied world economics, and one of his right-hand men, Zawahiri, is a physician. Bin Laden and al Qaeda are now allying with jihadist groups in key countries. Many of their previously planned assassination attempts have gone unfounded --- like the attempt to kill then-Vice President Al Gore during a trip to Saudi Arabia. Or putting a team of Bangladesh rebels aboard Air Force One to blow it up while then-President Bill Clinton was traveling on it. Quite simply, their goal is our complete psychic devastation.
No one understands this better than CIA operative Brooke Chandler. While stationed in Lebanon on an assignment, things went terribly wrong and resulted in the death of fellow operatives and contacts. He has since been sidelined and called back into action by his mentor, Carter Grey. When Grey and members of the President's Department of Defense intercept Bin Laden's latest threat --- the promise to eliminate a major Western city via nuclear attack on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 --- they know that Chandler has the skills and motivation to quickly infiltrate the terrorist circle and find the nuclear warhead that Bin Laden's allies are attempting to smuggle out of Pakistan.
Chandler has direct ties to the 9/11 attacks of a highly personal nature. His best friend, Ben, was working in the World Trade Center and was one of the thousands of victims who lost their lives on that fatal day. In the wake of that tragedy, Brooke's long-term relationship with an Israeli woman named Anit Rahal slowly disintegrated and the two separated --- expecting to never again cross paths.
Meanwhile, Bin Laden's deadly plan is being brought to life through the deeds of one of his loyalists --- a man named Al Zaroor, who was thought deceased by the U.S. Intelligence services. The threat to eliminate a major Western city is only a ruse to divert the U.S.'s attention from the real attack. The actual plan involves detonating a nuclear warhead over Tel Aviv, completely leveling that city and bringing Israel to its knees. Bin Laden feels confident that with Israel eliminated, his Western enemies will be powerless to stop him as the rest of the world will lose all faith in the United States' ability to protect their allies.
It is all Chandler can do to convince the powers-that-be in Washington, D.C. that the threat is not against the Capitol or even NYC --- but aimed directly at the heart of Israel. He is cut off from all contact and sent in deep cover on the run throughout the Middle East to try to use every skill and intelligence tactic he can muster to find where this nuclear warhead is being smuggled and stop Al Zaroor before he can set off this devastating bomb. Can one man take on the limitless resources of the world's largest terrorist organization and avert their planned apocalypse?
Where other recent novels fictionally recount or predict terrorist threats that are apparently "ripped out of today's headlines," Richard North Patterson has taken a far different approach. Much of the action in THE DEVIL'S LIGHT involves human interaction, acts of intelligence and counter-intelligence, and no pointless car chases and senseless explosions. Patterson exhibits his patience and skill as a writer by drawing the reader deep under the covers of modern-day espionage and terrorism and, in return, has provided us with a dazzling work of global suspense.
Reviewed by Ray Palen on May 16, 2011