The Increment Publication date : May 7, 2009
David Ignatius is the author of the best-selling Body of Lies (a film adaptation, with the same name, was directed by Ridley Scott and starred Leonardo DiCaprio). Ignatius is a columnist for the Washington Post and has covered the Middle East and the CIA for many years as a reporter and correspondent.
After tackling terrorism in his previous novel, David Ignatius continues to reinvent the contemporary spy thriller. He now takes the reader inside the most volatile secret of the twenty-first century: the Iranian nuclear programme.
From Tehran, an Iranian scientist who calls himself “Dr Ali” sends an encrypted message to the CIA. He claims he has information about scientific research that will result in the development of an Iranian bomb. It falls on the CIA’s Harry Pappas to decide if Dr Ali is to be trusted. Dr Ali sends more secrets of the Iranian bomb programme to the agency, then panics. He is being watched and followed. In the meantime, Pappas is under intense pressure from the White House to deliver information quickly that can serve as a pretext to attack Tehran. But to make sure that Dr Ali’s information is to be trusted, and to protect his source, Pappas needs to proceed slowly and cautiously — the basics of good intelligence work. Are the mistakes that led to the Iraqi disaster about to be replayed? What can be done to save Dr Ali and to get hold of the information that may avert a useless war?
Pappas’ great British friend offers a solution: to get his agent out Pappas will turn to a secret British spy team known as “The Increment”, whose operatives belong to Britain’s special forces. Capable of blending into any group anywhere, they have been granted the modern version of double-O-seven’s “license to kill”.
Will the operation succeed? Who in Iran is after Dr Ali? And why are the British being so generous to their American friend?
The world has changed greatly since John le Carré’s early novels — but not the ruses that are the stuff of a spy’s daily life.
The CIA has been held responsible for alleging that Iraq possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction. Will Washington repeat the same mistakes in Iran and intervene too quickly, without taking the time to gather information? That is the issue at the heart of David Ignatius’ new book.
But above all the book offers a suspense-filled plot that focuses alternatively on ground operatives, with their intelligence-gathering activities, and on the political discussions and decisions that shape, but also thwart, their actions.
Packed with action, suspense and cruelty, this brilliant spy thriller will delight readers of Robert Littell’s The Company: A Novel of the CIA as well as filmgoers who enjoyed Robert De Niro’s film Reasons of State.