Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Prisoner of Guatanamo

In recent years, the term “Gitmo” has come to loom large in the consciousness of anyone trying to follow the progress of the United States in her attempt to prevent the next 9-11. The Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention center, Gitmo, is home to prisoners who might know enough to help cripple al-Qaeda, the group supposedly responsible for what happened in New York City six years ago. This much we know. What actually goes on inside the gates of Gitmo, we can only imagine.

Dan Fesperman, novelist and Baltimore Sun reporter, sets out to change that with his latest thriller, The Prisoner of Guantanamo, a book that takes the reader inside the gates of the facility for a look at what daily life might be like there for prisoners and guards alike. His story focuses on the efforts of FBI Special Agent Revere Falk, an Arabic language specialist, as he interrogates one Yemeni prisoner over and over in an effort to get key names and information from him that will lead to the identification of al-Qaeda members still being sought. Much of what Falk and his fellows do at Gitmo has become part of the boring routine that often develops when small groups of men and women work long hours for weeks at a time in isolated living conditions with only themselves for company.

For Falk, it is his second hitch at Guantanamo Bay. Twelve years earlier he had been posted there as a young Marine whose curiosity about life on the other side of the fence brought him into contact with Cuban secret service agents who now suddenly reappear in his life to demand a meeting with him. To further complicate matters, when the body of a U.S. soldier washes up on a Cuban beach, Falk is put in charge of the investigation into the soldier’s death and his routine is shattered for good. Already suspecting that the death was not an accidental drowning, Falk begins to realize just how unusual the case is when three high-powered investigators from Washington arrive in camp and take an interest in his investigation.

Although he is taken off the case and told to return to his regular duties, Falk continues on his own time to piece together the details of what happened on the night the soldier died. Unable to tell the good guys from the bad ones, he finds himself doubting the motives of even his oldest friends as he moves closer and closer to the truth of what certain rogue government officials may be planning. As things begin to fall apart around him, Falk finds himself desperately on his own and willing to take help from where he would normally least expect to find it. Written in the tradition of the best Cold War spy thrillers of the past, The Prisoner of Guantanamo more than holds its own as it moves to its suspenseful climax.

Dan Fesperman’s detailed description of Gitmo life, a life dominated by military routines and regulations, boredom, petty jealousies among interrogators and between the various security agencies, and more than a bit of paranoia on both sides of the interrogation table, is an intriguing one. Readers of The Prisoner of Guantanamo will not be able to look at Gitmo headlines any time soon without flashing back to the book and the world created by Fesperman.

Rated at: 4.0

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