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Starred Kirkus review of The Prisoner’s Wife

Living in Paris in 2004, former CIA spy Shawn Maguire accepts a freelance job to find an Iranian named Darius Osmani.

Abducted by the CIA after claiming to have information about a nuclear device, Osmani is being interrogated in one of its secret “black prisons” as a suspected terrorist. Maguire’s efforts to track him and avoid his own downfall are complicated by his attraction to Osmani’s wife, Danielle. Maguire was drummed out of the CIA for drinking and violent behavior. A major burnout, he’s out of money, attending meetings for sex addiction, mourning the death of his wife and under pressure from his former bosses to do a nasty job for them. As spies go, Maguire is a decent, straight-shooting soul—and not only when he’s putting his skills as a sniper to work. As he searches for Osmani, on a road that takes him and Danielle to Morocco, Egypt and the political danger zone of Pakistan—where U.S. intelligence has secret plans for the soon-to-be-reinstated female prime minister—he must remain on his toes with the seductive wife and his old CIA pal Bobby, who is still with the Company. Conspiracies abound in this book, a sophisticated and suspenseful effort with crackling dialogue and evocative scenery. Maguire is a first-rate protagonist, complicated and heroic. And the book does a great job capturing the casual lawlessness of the American intelligence effort via its rendition campaigns and the propping up or deposing of criminal leaders depending on America’s needs. For those who wondered where spy novels could go in the aftermath of the Cold War, John le Carré isn’t the only one providing the answers. They also can be found here and, one hopes, in a batch of sequels.

Though this is Macdonald’s first adult novel, it boasts the assurance and authority of a veteran spymaster, making us feel like we’ve been reading this author for years.

Diego Garcia, rendition stopover

Diego Garcia is an island in the Indian Ocean. It is (or was) a British dependency. The US leased it as a base, a stopover for kidnapped prisoners, on their unwilling way to be abused in some country which specialised in the torture business. Jack Straw was Britain’s Foreign Secretary when the US was using the island… Continue Reading

Behave, Russia

President Obama and PM Cameron have told Russia that it should obey international law. So it should. But these instructions would be more convincing if the US and UK had not illegally invaded Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan; if both countries did not have lists of people to be kidnapped or assassinated without trial; if civilians –… Continue Reading

When the robot takes your job

The Economist – the rich person’s guide to wealth creation – predicts that half the world’s work will be automated in years to come. Millions of humans will be jobless as machines take over. Past industrial revolutions, the journal says, replaced automated work with new occupations, absorbing the unemployed. Tractor drivers replaced ploughmen; agricultural employment… Continue Reading

Extending the longest war

The US is planning to maroon thousands of troops in Afghanistan ‘after the longest war is finally over’ in 2014. Why? Officially, the answer is that these men and women will ‘train the Afghan police’ though Afghan officers have a habit of leaving the police force and, with their weapons, joining the Taliban. On the… Continue Reading