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The Night Ranger
John Wells Series #7
Alex Berenson

 Putnam
 February 12, 2013/ISBN: 978-0399159725
Mystery / Thriller

Reviewed by Elise Cooper

New York Times bestselling author Alex Berenson’s latest novel, The Night Ranger, is a compelling thriller. He uses his journalistic background to explore the issues of terrorism, and in the case of this book, international justice. 

With most of his novels Berenson travels to the setting of the book.  He went to Kenya to explore the sights, sounds, politics and culture, gaining information to create a plot centered on the refugee camps. He traveled to refugee camps in northern Kenya and spent a large amount of time in its biggest city, Nairobi, to make sure the plot of The Night Ranger was realistic. 

Instead of fighting terrorism the main character and hero, John Wells, goes underground in East Africa to find and rescue four kidnapped Americans. They are kidnapped by Somali bandits, while on a tour to see more of Kenya.  As a personal favor to his son, Wells investigates the kidnappings and finds himself in a complex situation as he attempts to rescue the four Americans. 

As the novel takes off it becomes obvious there were multiple plots involving refugees, the Civil War in northern Africa, corruptness, and how a father can reconnect with his son.  Berenson stated, “I enjoy the complexity.  Over the last few books Wells had lost his relationships. In the previous book, The Shadow Patrol his son told him in no uncertain terms that he considered him a war criminal.  In this book he reconnects with his son.” 

The reader will see Berenson’s transformation, although the politics presented are subtle.  He effectively shows that the refugee camps are somewhere between prisons and a welfare state, and wonders, “The aid community should consider if what they are doing is any good since the camps breed dependency where the refugees have no alternative.” He also shows that the Kenyan government is pitted against the two fighting militia, similar to a gang-like atmosphere.    

An interesting side note is many of the past supporting cast is MIA, such as Jennifer Exley and his current girlfriend, Anne.  Some day in the future he is considering bringing Exley back to work with Wells to explore the interpersonal problems that might arise having the former lovers working together. 

Besides the hostages, the supporting cast is the African setting, where Wells has to combat the plains that are dry and desolate. Also the animals take on an important role.  Berenson commented, “You expect Wells to take on other people in this book, but instead, he takes on these animals, snakes and hyenas.”  The hated protagonists are the hyenas just as they were in the Disney movie, The Lion King, where he displays them as tough, disgusting creatures. 

His next book will be a John Wells novel where the hero returns to the profession of a spy instead of a hunter, as in Berenson’s last two books. He gave a heads up that the plot will take place in Istanbul and will involve an effort to interfere with US foreign policy.  

Will Berenson write another series?  “No,” says the author.  “I don’t think I would like to do another series. I don’t have time to write two books a year the way I would like it. I don’t want a book to suffer in terms of quality. Although, I will never say never.” 

The Night Ranger is an engrossing book. The reader should make sure they pick it up when they have some time because they will not want to put it down.  It is a very fast paced and riveting novel.

Reviews of other titles in this series

The Midnight House #4
The Secret Soldier #6
The Night Ranger #7
The Counterfeit Agent #8

Reviewed 2013
MyShelf.com