Review: Body Of Lies – David Ignatius

My version: Paperback
Genre: Fiction, CIA, Iraq, Europe
W. W. Norton Company
First published: 2007
ISBN: 9780393334296
Pages: 352

From the cover:
CIA soldier Roger Ferris has come out of Iraq with a shattered leg and an intense mission—to penetrate the network of a master terrorist known only as “Suleiman.” Ferris’s plan is inspired by a masterpiece of British intelligence during World War II: He prepares a body of lies, literally the corpse of an imaginary CIA officer who appears to have accomplished the impossible by recruiting an agent within the enemy’s ranks. This scheme binds friend and foe in a web of extraordinary subtlety and complexity. When it begins to unravel, Ferris finds himself flying blind into a hurricane. His only hope is the urbane head of Jordan’s intelligence service. But can Ferris trust him? 

I was inspired, if that is the right word, to read Body Of Lies after seeing the film maybe a couple of times on tv. I’m not going to give an opinion on which was better, I don’t really have one. Also my first reading of a book by David Ignatius as well, maybe not my last either.

The book itself seems to have been inspired by a real event that happened during the Second World War, known as Operation Mincemeat. A dead body was dressed up as a British soldier, and ‘correspondence’ placed on the body was used to trick the Germans into believing they had captured actual evidence that the Allied invasion of Sicily was actually going to be the invasion of Greece. Ignatius uses this idea, the misdirection, to make the terrorist group Roger Ferris, his lead character, is after, think that the CIA have recruited someone in their ranks. Simple and effective, and of course dependent on the terrorists not having studied WWII in school.

Body of Lies is well worth reading even if you have, or haven’t, seen the film. It’s nicely plotted and maintains an attention-grabbing pace pretty much all the way through. Whilst it can’t compete with the ultimate CIA book for detail and “what the actual fuck-ness” – The Company – the CIA is dealt with here dispassionately and even objectively. I got the idea that he details what they do, to lay it out in front of us, to draw our own conclusions and determine ourselves, if we think such measures and means are necessary or not. It almost seems that Ferris’ aim is more to help the people of the middle east, by defeating Suliman. You really wish they (CIA) didn’t have to do the things they do and that down the chain of command anyway, there are people who know why they’re doing the job they do. Some of the problems I have with the book, are mirrored many other places, in that these thrillers nearly always come down to a one on one, one of the good guys is after one of the bad guys, and it’s a war of wills until one of them, the bad guy, makes a mistake. Here, it’s Ferris against ‘Suleiman’ I can see why an author would do it, but I really wish sometimes they wouldn’t. Especially the bad guy having really expensive, and some ‘unusual,’ tastes. If you are a ‘normal’ mind your own business rich person who shares those tastes, and think that cloth imported from a remote region of India, actually is worth paying several thousand times more than down your local H&M, it doesn’t make you also an undercover international, bent on world domination, terrorist. There is an interesting angle of Ferris being in the middle of it all, trying to find out, as things go wrong, just who he can trust and that just wanting to be able to trust people, doesn’t make it so.

I’ve seen it said that the romantic interludes aren’t up to much, but I can’t really remember them, so that tells me all I want to know about them.

It’ll maybe give you food for thought and is well worth reading even just to enable you to start tut-tutting when you see the film and Russell Crowe dropping Leonardo de Caprio in it from a great height.

You can buy Body of Lies from The Book Depository

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