By Rob Brunner
September 07, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT

”We just killed the number one terrorist in the world,” writes ex-Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette, using the pseudonym Mark Owen, in No Easy Day, his much-anticipated firsthand account of the May 2011 raid that resulted in Osama bin Laden’s death. ”The last thing we needed was our names attached to it. We simply wanted to fade back into the shadows.” It’s hard to fathom, then, why he wrote this fascinating book. Soon after No Easy Day was announced, Bissonnette’s true identity was sniffed out, and he found himself in an intense swirl of excitement and controversy. (Key parts of his version differ from the White House’s.) The publisher, Dutton, increased the print run to 575,000 and moved up the release date a week, to Sept. 4. The Pentagon is less enthusiastic; a Defense Department lawyer reportedly sent a letter accusing the author of violating nondisclosure agreements. (Bissonnette’s lawyers deny he violated NDAs.)

But while the military may be unhappy, readers will likely be thrilled. The book is a stomach-twisting look at that historic mission in Abbottabad, Pakistan, told from the point of view of a superelite member of SEAL Team Six who fired bullets into bin Laden and helped carry away the corpse. Written in clean, polished prose (with co-writer Kevin Maurer), No Easy Day often reads like a gripping novel as the author recounts remarkably vivid details about the weeks of preparation, the agonizing wait as the go moment grew near, the scary Black Hawk crash that almost ruined everything, and the eerie minutes in bin Laden’s bedroom as the lifeless body of the world’s most wanted man lay bleeding. ”It was strange to see such an infamous face up close,” he writes. ”Lying in front of me was the reason we had been fighting for the last decade.” No Easy Day puts you right there for every tense moment. A-

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