The Increment

May 13, 2009 at 04:00 AM EDT

Now that the threats to the free world speak Farsi and Arabic, as David Ignatius tells us in his fitfully exciting spy novel, The Increment, James Bond has been replaced by a new generation of operatives: handsome ”Pakis and Arabs ready to kick ass for Queen and country — blowing people away while they listened to Bob Marley.” The guys in a quasi-legal British commando force known as the Increment (and their one lovely, leatherclad female colleague) would make terrific heroes for a thriller. Instead, Ignatius chooses Harry Pappas, a middle-aged CIA bureaucrat whose illusions all died with his Marine son in Iraq. It’s a dreary role that Harrison Ford could play (and has played) in his sleep. Like every broken hero, Pappas intends to learn from his mistakes. When an anonymous Iranian scientist e-mails the CIA with information on his country’s nuclear program, Pappas watches in horror as Washington begins twisting this tidbit to start another war. This time, Pappas decides not to play by the rules, and starts scheming with the Increment. When the Increment is operating undercover in Iran, the book flies. Then Ignatius cuts to world-weary Pappas and you long to start skimming. It may be time for him to join Mr. Bond in retirement. B

The Increment

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The Increment

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