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Damascus Station: Unmissable New Spy Thriller From Former CIA Officer (Damascus Station, 1)

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However, I must admit that, while I found Damascus Station to be interesting enough to finish, I felt that, overall, it was just an okay read. And it’s against that background that CIA veteran David McCloskey spins out his spellbinding spy story about espionage in Syria, Damascus Station. Both Sam and Mariam are unusually attractive (of course, this being fiction), and they are drawn together from the outset.

As interesting as the book is, the author spends a lot of time in my opinion in unnecessary minutiae. An agent tries to turn a member of the Syrian regime, everyone has their motivations and it all really good. In the vain of the long ago spy novels David brings you into the world that seems so real and you feel right there with them the entire time. David McCloskey does a fantastic job painting a fictional yet realistic picture of the people and places involved in the brutal, heartbreaking civil war taking place early in the 21st century. You can change your choices at any time by visiting Cookie preferences, as described in the Cookie notice.A spy story – of securing an asset for vital intelligence capture; a love story – of star-crossed lovers; two-sides that never should mix, a Romeo and Juliet for modern times; a survival story – of the Ikhwan rebels existing against all odds against the brutal onslaught of the Assad war machine and a human story – of familial links, mixed motives, past histories and ultimately, their intrinsic ties to a regime that would ultimately destroy them. There's a good novel lurking within in here somewhere but I found it over-concerned with CIA jargon, perhaps unsurprisingly given the author's ex-company background and some of the characters felt a little bit like they had been taken from a catalog. But the cat and mouse chase for the killer soon leads to a trail of high-profile assassinations and the discovery of a dark secret at the heart of the Syrian regime, bringing the pair under the all-seeing eyes of Assad’s spy catcher, Ali Hassan, and his brother Rustum, the head of the feared Republican Guard. The CIA dispatches Sam to Paris to recruit Mariam, where she is on a Syrian delegation to a conference. McCloskey's vivid descriptions bring each setting to life, immersing the reader in the sights, sounds, and smells of these exotic locales.

Of course, Mariam is a stunning knockout and, against all protocol, a passionate love affair blossoms between these unlikely allies.David McCloskey experienced Syria firsthand as a CIA analyst, and he delivers a thrilling, graphic, gripping, and realistic--albeit fictional--portrayal of the CIA and the bloody, tragic Syrian uprising. McCloskey portrays the brutal inner functioning of the Assad regime, as well as the CIA's occasional ineptitude, while detailing such elements of spy craft as avoiding tails, maximizing dead drops, and operating safe houses. He captures the places and people--and most of all, the sickening feeling in the gut--of this war that shattered poor Syria while America mostly watched.

The Syrian Civil War he launched against peaceful protestors in 2011 as the Arab Spring swirled throughout the Middle East has cost as many as 600,000 lives, more than one of every fifty of Syria’s twenty-two million people. I lived this extraordinarily frustrating episode in Agency history, and I could not put this book down. Towards the end of the book, the brutal nature of the violence and uprising seems to take the book away from some of the more subtle storytelling that McCloskey lays out earlier in the story, and it also runs on a little bit too long as it edges over 400 pages. Assad and his allies don’t distinguish between the democratic forces supported by the West and the jihadists who are steadily gaining ground. As Sam Joseph dives headfirst into the intricate world of intelligence, readers are treated to a rollercoaster of twists and turns that keep them guessing until the very end.As the novel progresses the tension ramps up, each progressive sentence feels like it could all collapse. An extremely effective modern espionage novel, filled with action and incident but also a profound knowledge of the people and factions of Syria, the complex maneuvers of spycraft, the gray areas, competing egos and overlapping priorities that make every day a journey through the minefield. In a field groaning with ludicrous plots, absurd characters, and laughable "espionage," McCloskey--a former CIA analyst--has crafted a book that goes back to the roots of what makes a spy thriller great, the spying.

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