Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Gerald Seymour is one of the unsung heroes of the political thriller. In many impeccably crafted, grippingly timely books, he has written about everything from the Irish struggle and the Cold War to Israel and Iran. In each one he has avoided most of the cliches of the genre and brought to life a truly frightening story.
For his 17th book, Seymour takes on Al Qaeda--in the person of Caleb, an apparently harmless cab driver from Kabul, Afghanistan, who spent two years in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay because he looked suspicious and now wants only to get back to his family. But Caleb is really a powerful Al Qaeda agent known as the Outsider, a type of character often flat or ludicrous in other thrillers but believably riveting here. A series of plot twists show that the Outsider's terrorist skills are impressively efficient. But equally impressive are the actions of the team of American and British counterterrorists who search for him, using hard-won intelligence and ultramodern technology. Their job is to keep the Outsider from delivering to his "family"--Al Qaeda's leaders--a small, deadly weapon that would make real-life terrorist scenarios pale by comparison.
What Seyour does so well in "The Unknown Soldier," as he has done so many times before, is take an already frightening world and make it even more terrifying. It isn't the least bit comforting, but it certainly gets your attention.