Reading With Fakename: Ministers of Fire

This is a classic spy novel in John le Carre mode, or Robert Ludlum (who himself does not hold a candle to le Carre).  Nobody, but nobody, can ever top The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.  The closest book and movie I can remember is Ken Follett’s Eye of The Needle.

This book is not it.  (Not all my book reviews are raves.)

I’m having trouble remembering what year it is, what country we’re in, who works for what agency, and who is betraying who.

To some extent it’s probably that I’m somewhat bored with this genre.

Our “hero” is Lucius Burling.  As the book opens, he is CIA Station Chief at the U.S. embassy in Kabul in 1979.  Then the ambassador is murdered.  The car, with Lucius and the ambassador enclosed, is surrounded by “police”, actually people dressed in police uniforms.  The ambassador is trying to open the car doors, and Lucius is trying to keep them closed.  First lesson.  Who are your friends?

In spite of the murder of the ambassador, Lucius decides to proceeed with his plan to make contact with the mujahedin in northern Afghanistan, and to bring in the Chinese to help support them.  He takes with him the wife of a colleague, ostensibly because she speaks Dari, but really because he has a crush on her.  That ends in disaster.  She’s abducted by the mujahedin and presumbably killed (although she may still be alive).

Fast forward to 2002.  Yeah, I’m confused too.  The book looked very promising.  The author sounds very intellectual, which just goes to show that intellectual does not a good writer make.

In anticipation of spending next week on St. George Island, on Friday I stocked up at the library.  I got a classic summer reading trash novel by Lisa Scotoline, a more literary sounding novel called The Watery Part of the World, a true adventure story called The Lost City of Z, and a biography of Che Guevara (!)

The Lost City of Z is about the search for El Dorado in South America.  It was on a display table which included other true adventure stories, which included In the Heart of the Sea–one of my favorite books ever.  That and The Tiger and No Way Down are my top three favorites.  Close behind is Tuna:  A Love Story.

I haven’t been able to convince anyone else of how good those books are 🙂  My likes in non-fiction have some things in common.  Nature and history, for example.  But people find those subjects boring and tedious somehow.

That said, perhaps you would like Ministers of Fire 🙂

One response to “Reading With Fakename: Ministers of Fire

  1. Update: I finished Ministers of Fire at the beach. Lucius Burling is eventually relegated to a sort of secondary importance, although he still plays a huge role. The primary character in many ways turns out to be his underling, Lindstrom—whose wife it was that Burling had a crush on, and who was captured by the mujahedin. The book had many thrilling moments, including the end. But something…something…was still wrong with it. I can’t really put my finger on it. It was just…dense.
    I also finished the book about Che Guevara, which actually was a memoir by his wife of their lives together. (Which ended in 1967 when he was assassinated in Bolivia.) She’s now 74, and is breaking her silence for the first time about their lives. The book was published this year and is very brief (168 pages). It was still very educational to me, both about Che and about the Cuban revolution.
    Now I’m reading The Lost City of Z…more about that in a different post.

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