Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Intelligence by Susan Hasler (NY: St. Martin's Press, 2010).

Maddie James weathered the 9/11 debacle and remained in her analyst position at the CIA--with the help of drugs for the physical and mental ailments that resulted from the stress of helplessly watching something happen that she felt she could have--and should have--prevented. The signs were there. She even had portentious dreams. And now, she's having them again. And again she's meeting endless resistance and can see how the almost inevitable failure to stop the next attack will simply result in another unnecessary military involvement. But she tries. She manages to get a special team together and nearly succeeds in stopping the attack.

Hasler plots her novel well and casts it with a fascinating array of characters from whose varying perspectives the story evolves. Maddie is hysterically funny in the way of middle-aged women who have been overlooked and ignored yet remain persistently intelligent, realistic, confident, and defiant.

This novel recalls all those tired jokes about "military intelligence" and magnifies their kernel of truthiness to an alarming magnitude. As an ex-CIA analyst, Hasler has the inside knowledge to indict the so-called intelligence gathering mechanisms that are supposed to protect the U.S. and instead get used to promote political agendas. And she does an awesome job, with such flair, verve, and humor that this novel goes down smoothly despite its fearsome message. Progressive readers will undoubtedly nod their heads in agreement, whispering "I knew it, I knew it," over and over. Fox news fans should just avoid this one.

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