Review Blog

Nov 14 2011

The Good Jihadist by Bob Shepherd

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Simon and Schuster, 2011. ISBN: 9781847377760.
(Age: Senior students) Matt Logan leaves the British army disillusioned after a joint exercise with the US Delta Force goes horribly wrong. To raise money to fund his future with Emma, a TV network news journalist, Matt goes to Afghanistan as a security advisor. When Emma is killed in suspicious circumstances in Islamabad, Pakistan, Matt is determined to avenge her death and joins a unit run by his ex-Delta Force colleagues. In Pakistan nothing is as it seems. The politics of Pakistan and Afghanistan are shown to be unpredictable and unreadable by those who are ignorant of history and who underestimate the power of tribal loyalties. Matt's suspicions fall on one tribal and religious group after another; the Waziri, the Baluchi, the Pashtani, the Taliban, Al-Qaeda all seem possibly implicated, but so do members of Emma's team and perhaps even the quite fanatical Christian ex-Delta Force group. Shepherd is no master of prose but his writing is direct and forceful. His characters display a limited range of emotions, loyalty, suspicion, remorse, but do have remarkable skills of endurance. The complexity of the plot compensates for character simplicities, and a real strength is its exposure of the complex nature of power in Pakistan. Christian fundamentalism is shown to be as blunt and destructive a weapon as radical Islam, and elements of the Western presence are more untrustworthy than the perceived enemy. This is a novel for those who like action and acronyms. There is a comprehensive glossary, fortunately, and a useful map. Unfortunately for school use it does contain obscenities, though nothing that one would not hear in many schoolyards.
Jenny Hamilton

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