In a remote safe house in the American Northeast, a terrorist is questioned, a psychiatrist is tested, and an assassin is dispatched...
His previous novels have been widely praised as "sharp and refreshingly literate" (Chicago Tribune); and "taut and lean and filled with action" (Booklist). In The Watchmen John Altman delivers his most gripping thriller yet.
An Al Qaeda prisoner named Ali Zattout is moved from Pakistan to a CIA safe house for observation and interrogation. He is smart, cooperative, and thoroughly Westernized -but is he too good to be true? The man who must question him, Dr. Louis Finney, regrets his days spent working for the U.S. Government. Years have passed since he and his mentor performed experiments designed to develop multiple personalities in unsuspecting patients, but only recently have his guilty nightmares begun to subside. Now his mentor appears on Finney's doorstep, terminally ill, asking him to consult for a critically important CIA case.
But the CIA isn't the only group interested in Zattout's information. His capture has aroused concerns at the highest ranks of Al Qaeda. An assassin schooled in ancient arts of meditation and murder is sent to eliminate Zattout before he discloses their secrets. The CIA safe house is as heavily guarded as the secret of its location, but Zattout is not the only traitor within its walls.
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John Altman comes from an extended family of writers. His previous books are A Gathering of Spies, A Game of Spies, and Deception.From Publishers Weekly:
When captured al-Qaeda operative Ali Zattout proves less than forthcoming with his CIA interrogators, they subject him to the manipulations of regretful psychiatrist Louis Finney, who tries everything from mellow conversation to electroshock-induced "de-patterning" and "psychic driving." Meanwhile, Zattout is being stalked by a nameless assassin, alumnus of an Asian temple cult of assassins, whose hypno-meditative regimen makes him so stealthily lethal that he is shudderingly referred to as the "ghost wind." Altman (A Gathering of Spies) excels at taut psychological confrontations, engrossing procedural and nerve-wracking action set pieces, replete with the theory and practice of mind control, interrogation techniques, cryptanalysis and murder. But the intrigue and mayhem spring from recognizable human motives. Like the Americans here, Altman's terrorists have affecting backstories and a sense of duty and payback that explains their acts, and they feel misgivings at the brutality they inflict. Orientalist clichés are off-loaded onto the assassin, a representative of the "True East," whose violence, unlike that of Muslims and Westerners, is not a tragic product of ideology and history but a mystic pathway to enlightenment, though even he is plagued by doubts and depression. Altman's blend of suspense, action, psychological depth and moral murk makes this a wonderful espionage thriller for a Code Orange age.
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