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THE PRINCE OF BAGRAM PRISON
By Alex Carr
Random House Trade Paperbacks, March 11, 2008 ($14.00)
Reviewed by Cherie Jung
Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan will sound familiar to most readers, if in name only. Kat Caldwell was deployed there as an interrogator but now has resumed teaching Arabic at a military college in Virginia. During her stint as an interrogator she met Jamal, "The Prince of Bagram Prison" -- a then 15-year-old Moroccan caught up in a sweep led by British forces and suspected of being a terrorist. Too young to keep confined with the other prisonsers he is recruited by the CIA as an informant, which further complicates his life.
Three years later, at 18 years old, Jamal disappears. His handler has lost track of him. Since Jamal had once trusted Kat she is sent to find him and bring him in. In doing so, she begins to suspect that she is the bait in what may be a deadly game.
The shadowy world of modern day spies is intriguing, all the more so because the author is very adept at characterization and descriptive narrative. The characters come alive on the page and each scene is so precisely written that it's almost as if the reader is observing a real-life encounter with the players not merely reading about fictitious characters created in the author's imagination.
Readers who prefer their narrative straight forward may be put off by the flashbacks and multiple points of view but I didn't find them distracting. On the contrary, I thought the author's style of bringing this disturbing tale to the reader was heightened by the rapid changes of location and time line. It kept me on edge, much as I imagine someone whose life was at risk by forces out of their control might feel.
The story and the plight of its characters will leave a lasting impression on many readers.
I wouldn't be surprised to see copies of this book in beach totes, on lunch tables in cafes, and in the eager hands of commuters on buses and trains. It will make for exciting and compelling reading this summer.
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