Damascus Station

Mysterious Book Report No. 464

by John Dwaine McKenna

Damascus Station, (Norton, $27.95, 400 pages, ISBN 978-0-393-88104-2) by former CIA analyst David McCloskey, features a CIA case officer named Sam Joseph, who in his second espionage adventure is attempting to recruit a Syrian woman named Mariam Haddad, a highly placed official working for the Syrian Secret Service called the Mukhabarat.

The story begins in Paris, France, where Sam elbows his way into a diplomatic cocktail party in order to meet the Syrian noblewoman.  When he spots her being badgered by a Syrian diplomat,  Sam moves in and rescues her, then strikes up a conversation.  One thing leads to another, and as the CIA officer recruits Ms. Haddad, he breaks all the rules and they become romantically involved.  In spite of this, she agrees to spy for the Americans, despite the incredible dangers posed by the Assad regime. Sam gets posted to Damascus . . . where he’s assigned as the case officer for the newly recruited spy.  His plan is to hunt down a brutal pair of brothers who are not only Syrian Palace officials, they’re also responsible for kidnapping and torturing a female American spy to death.

McCloskey portrays the incredible tension and the mission dangers so well, that the reader will feel sweat breaking out on her neck.  In addition to accurately portraying the savagery and describing the appalling conditions on the ground in the war torn country, he shows the occasional ineptitude of the CIA bureaucracy.  Readers will also learn the basic elements of spycraft, such as avoiding tails, the operation of a safe house and how to make a dead drop.  This sobering and electrifying novel is a nail-biter that will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the last page is read.  If you’re a fan of spy novels you don’t want to miss this one!!

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