The Director

Written by David Ignatius

Review written by Adam Colclough

Adam Colclough lives and works in the West Midlands, he writes regularly for a number of websites, one day he will get round to writing a book for someone else to review.


The Director
Quercus
RRP: £7.99
Released: July 16, 2015
Pbk

Graham Weber, an outsider, takes over as director of the CIA at a moment when it seems that America's elite security agency has lost its way. Determined to turn things around he sets about shaking the moribund organisation up and immediately falls foul of its old guard.

In Berlin a young man walks into the US embassy claiming to have knowledge of a plot by hackers to bring launch an unspecified, but devastating attack on the West. It is the first move in a deadly game that will expose a conspiracy that reaches to the threshold of the Oval Office and threaten the existence of everything the CIA exists to defend.

This intelligent and at times worryingly convincing thriller unites ideas that have been features of the espionage genre for decades with some very modern concerns, turning the result into a enjoyable if unsettling read.

These include the temptations that go with great power and the rivalries that exist within any large organisation, intensified here, of course, by the fact that it is staffed by people who are more than usually adept at subterfuge. America's crisis of (over) confidence and the rise of China and other powers threatening its position; the anarchic nature of the internet and the ability of a handful of hackers to wreak havoc with a few clicks of a mouse.

The book is hugely influenced by the Wiki-leaks revelations and questions they prompt about civil liberties. Ignatius also touches on the ease with which idealism, be it that of intelligence operatives or hackers, both of whom believe they are acting for the common good, can turn sour or be manipulated by others with less noble motives.

What makes you shudder is the fact that some of the, seemingly, wilder ideas and situations suggested by Ignatius are probably closest to the truth. A little welcome light relief is added by the fact that for all the high-tech paraphernalia of their trade twenty first century spooks are still obliged to fuss around with wigs, false noses and clandestine meetings in public places.

Throughout he keeps the tension high although there is very little in the way of anything someone weaned on the more hectic end of the genre would recognise as 'action' and manages skilfully to unite a globe-trotting plot with an exploration of ideas such as the meaning of freedom and the limits of power.

This might just be the future of the espionage novel as the 'great game' increasingly moves online into a world where firewalls replace borders lines with barbed wire; Bourne and Bond are being put out to grass.

 

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