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In a CIA safe house, a reluctant interrogator and his subject find that they are the next targets on a ruthless assassin’s hit list
Psychiatrist Louis Finney is still haunted by nightmares stemming from the work in mind control and psychological conditioning he helped to pioneer for the US government years ago. But when he is asked by his dying mentor to help with the questioning of Ali Zattout, an al-Qaeda operative, Finney finds he cannot refuse.
Charismatic, intelligent, and unexpectedly cooperative, Zattout possesses information his masters in the Middle East cannot allow him to reveal. As Finney tries to determine if the terrorist is telling the truth or spinning a web of lies, a relentless killer closes in on the secret location where the two men are trapped together. Too late, Finney realizes that he is a pawn in a conspiracy whose dimensions stretch deep into the corridors of power.
A provocative suspense story that peers into the dark corners of the war on terror, John Altman’s The Watchmen depicts the murky world of twenty-first-century espionage with thrilling style and fascinating psychological depth.
When captured al-Qaeda operative Ali Zattout proves less than forthcoming with his CIA interrogators, they subject him to the manipulations of regretful psychiatrist Louis Finney, who tries everything from mellow conversation to electroshock-induced "de-patterning" and "psychic driving." Meanwhile, Zattout is being stalked by a nameless assassin, alumnus of an Asian temple cult of assassins, whose hypno-meditative regimen makes him so stealthily lethal that he is shudderingly referred to as the "ghost wind." Altman (A Gathering of Spies) excels at taut psychological confrontations, engrossing procedural and nerve-wracking action set pieces, replete with the theory and practice of mind control, interrogation techniques, cryptanalysis and murder. But the intrigue and mayhem spring from recognizable human motives. Like the Americans here, Altman's terrorists have affecting backstories and a sense of duty and payback that explains their acts, and they feel misgivings at the brutality they inflict. Orientalist clich s are off-loaded onto the assassin, a representative of the "True East," whose violence, unlike that of Muslims and Westerners, is not a tragic product of ideology and history but a mystic pathway to enlightenment, though even he is plagued by doubts and depression. Altman's blend of suspense, action, psychological depth and moral murk makes this a wonderful espionage thriller for a Code Orange age.