Body of Lies by David Ignatius

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Body of Lies by David Ignatius

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Iain Wear
Reviewed by Iain Wear
Summary: An unevenly paced story that mixes a fascinating idea and some complicated and exciting plot twists with some very slow-paced emotional sub plots that didn't seem to add much to the character building or the story.
Buy? No Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 400 Date: November 2008
Publisher: Quercus
ISBN: 978-1847245892

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I know you should never judge a book by the cover, but getting something that has 'Now a major film starring Leonardo Di Caprio' on the front never strikes me as a good start. Especially after seeing the trailer and not being terribly impressed. Nevertheless, someone must have thought enough of the book to buy the film rights, so I suppose it can't be all bad.

Terrorists are busily exploding bombs in major European cities. The CIA has an idea that the mastermind behind the terrorist cell doing this is a man called Suleiman, but they have no idea of how to reach him. The one man that Roger Ferris has managed to make contact with is swiftly killed and no longer of use. Hani Pasha of the Jordanian Secret Service seems to have better contacts and Ferris gets to see him take control of a terrorist by psychological means.

No matter what they try, the bombings continue and they can't seem to get anywhere near this mysterious Suleiman. Then Ferris comes up with an idea to make Suleiman think they have penetrated his network, despite their lack of success in actually doing so. It's a brilliant plan if it works, but it's a high-risk strategy and one that could place many people in danger if it fails to work the way Ferris hopes.

The story itself is an intricate one and it's easy to see how Hollywood would have their eye on it. The story delves into the world of CIA espionage and because it's based on something that has been in the news a lot in recent years, he makes things seem real. Whilst the events may be fictional, there is enough truth in the basic idea to make it seem very real. At the same time, very few of us will truly know what exactly is involved in covert operations overseas, so it is difficult to feel otherwise, as what truth there may be here will remain unknown to most of us.

Ignatius mixes the intrigue with a little about Ferris' personal life, in order to flesh out his character and give him a more sympathetic air. Whilst many of the characters seem cold and calculating, Ferris is allowed to feel, which makes him a slightly more likeable character. This also adds to the feeling of reality, as whilst I will never be a CIA agent, I could at least relate to some of the emotional and relationship issues that Ferris had to deal with. For some reason, though, he still seemed quite two dimensional to me and maybe it was because of all the characters, only Ferris had a life story and the others were bland in comparison, which may have prevented me from getting as fully involved with Ferris as I suspect Ignatius might have liked.

Unfortunately, this very aspect of the story did give things a rather uneven pace. The plans Ferris were putting into place were quite complicated and devious, but the plan itself wasn't necessarily enough to fill an entire novel. The parts of the novel that fleshed out Ferris' personality were useful to ensure we knew who was the good guy here, but they seemed to slow things down and some parts, noticeably the sub-plot where Ferris' soon-to-be ex-wife was causing trouble, did seem a little like padding.

By contrast, when things really started moving, especially when Ferris' plan was in the final stages of preparation and when it was put into place, this was a superb thriller novel. The basic idea behind the plot was very solid and the detail that went into the planning was incredible. Ignatius certainly has a great eye for detail and it would probably take a real CIA agent to spot anything he hadn't thought of and included. During these parts of the book, it was a great read, twisting and turning like a country road and keeping the reader as well as the characters off balance pretty much the whole time. Just when I thought I was getting a handle on what was going on at times, I turned a page to discover I was wrong and the story went off in an unexpected direction.

Ultimately, this unevenness of pacing and focus left me feeling slightly dissatisfied. Whilst I greatly enjoyed the thriller nature of the book, the romantic sub plots seemed a little out of place and were less enjoyable. I accept that their inclusion adds to the realism of the novel, but they just seems a little dull and slow in comparison to the action and intrigue that was available elsewhere; often just a turn of a page away. This is an enjoyable enough way to while away a few hours, but it's not the kind of book that I can wholeheartedly recommend, as for all the plot twists, it doesn't really take us anywhere new and now I've read it once, there's nothing captivating enough here to make me want to do so again.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this type of book appeals then you might also enjoy The Edge of Madness by Michael Dobbs.

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Buy Body of Lies by David Ignatius at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Body of Lies by David Ignatius at


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