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The Afghan

By Frederick Forsyth

There are reasons why Frederick Forsyth is one of the World's best-selling authors. And for those reasons, The Afgan will completely engross you. It starts with the aftermath of the London 2005 bombings, and the tracing of a mobile phone bought by one of the suicide bombers. It turns out the phone is eventually passed on to Al-Quaida's banker. When one of his minders in Pakistan inadvertantly makes a call, Pakistani, British and American intelligence suddenly take notice. The banker's laptop is captured, and contains hints of a spectacular Al-Quaida plot.

To counter the plot, the CIA must recruit an inside Al Quaida agent... This is where The Afgan comes in. Mike Martin, stereotypically reluctant ex-army agent, half-Indian and brought up in pre-Hussain Iraq.

Much of the book concerns the details of Martin's background with the Mujaudeen in Afganistan, how he builds up his legend and infiltrates the operation. The operation itself, Al Isra, builds up in fits and starts throughout the story until Martin joins the suicide team on a mission he can't easily stop.

This is a man's book, preoccupied with plot, subterfuge, concealment, deception and detail. It's also an education in the origins, philosophy and methods of Islamic terrorism and its western counterparts.

Forsyth is a right-winger who believes in the right of agencies like the CIA and M15. He believes that western Prime Ministers and Presidents have the interests of their citizens at heart; the agents, agencies and politicians in The Afgan behave exactly as you would want them to. This is the book's biggest failing: the Islamic terrorists are all bad, the spymasters and politicians are all good - a rather simplistic view of the world, and not one which makes for a thought-provoking read, however interesting, gripping, educational and entertaining the book is.

But, overall, and despite the fictionally angelic leaders, a satisfying read.