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Cover image for The devil's light : a novel
The devil's light : a novel


1st Scribner hardcover ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Scribner, 2011.
Physical Description:
342 pages ; 24 cm
Sidelined after a colleague's blunder, CIA agent Brooke Chandler envisions a way to halt an Al Qaeda plot to set off a massive nuclear explosion and begins a race against time that returns him to Lebanon, where nothing is quite as it seems.


Call Number
Patterson, R.

On Order



THE DEVIL'S LIGHT tells the story of an AL Qaeda operative named Amer Al Zaroor, who, on orders from Osama Bin Laden, directs the theft of a nuclear weapon from the Pakistani military, and then transports it toward its intended target, Israel. Meanwhile Bin Laden announces to the world that he will make a major terrorist strike on 9/11/10, the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Deep inside Washington, Brooke Chandler, a CIA operative whose cover was blown by an incompetent colleague in Lebanon, thinks he knows how the bomb is being moved toward its target and how to find it. First he must overcome the skepticism of the CIA and the White House, and then he must find the bomb and disable or detonate it before it causes the Middle East to go up in flames.

Author Notes

Richard North Patterson was born in Berkeley, California on February 22, 1947. He graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1968 and Case Western Reserve University's School of Law in 1971. He has served as an assistant attorney general for the state of Ohio; a trial attorney for the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco; and was the SEC's liaison to the Watergate special prosecutor. He retired from the practice of law in 1993 to become a full-time writer. He studied creative writing with Jesse Hill Ford at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

His first novel, The Lasko Tangent, won an Edgar Allen Poe Award in 1979. His other works include Private Screening, Eyes of a Child, Silent Witness, No Safe Place, Exile, Eclipse, The Devil's Light, and Fall from Grace. He has received several awards of his work including the French Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere in 1995 for Degree of Guilt and a Maggie Award from Planned Parenthood for Protect and Defend.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Patterson (In the Name of Honor) brings his usual encyclopedic research to this exploration of what is quickly becoming a tiresome thriller subgenre, the Arab terrorist with a nuclear bomb. History lectures and political lessons tend to slow what is generally an interesting if only mildly suspenseful account of a terrorist plot involving bin Laden himself from the early planning stages to the very gates of nuclear disaster. CIA agent Brooke Chandler and his retired agency mentor, Carter Grey, believe that the target of the attack, which they know is scheduled for September 11, 2011, will be Tel Aviv rather than an American city. This unpopular opinion forces the two men almost singlehandedly to hunt down a deadly terrorist, Amer Al Zaroor, to foil the bomb plot. Patterson's work is always serious, detailed, and meticulous, which makes this a scary how-to manual for terrorists, but something less for readers looking for straight-out action and thrills. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

Osama bin Laden lieutenant Amer Al Zaroor has a dream: a city in flames, its buildings reduced to rubble, its inhabitants dead, its neighbors maimed, cowed and utterly demoralized. It can all come true, he promises, if only al-Qaeda can hijack a nuclear device from Pakistan. Al Zaroor's plan is ingenious and terrifyingly plausible. Since the country's nuclear arsenal will be least secure when it's being moved into position for a possible war against India, he hires bombers to provoke a crisis between the two nations and a crack team to grab a 200-pound device as trucks carry it over roads that are doubly treacherous. The theft goes off without a hitchPakistan even unwittingly cooperates by denying that any such theft took placebut the sharpest eyes over at the CIA aren't taken in by bin Laden's broadcast announcement that he has a bomb and intends to detonate it over a major U.S. city on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. As most of the Agency types are scurrying to secure America's porous borders, Brooke Chandler, a field officer back stateside after barely surviving his last posting to Lebanon, voices a contrary suspicion: What if bin Laden really intends to bomb Tel Aviv in the hope of provoking Israeli and American retaliation against Iran? (Readers who scoff at the unlikelihood that America, attacked by stateless terrorists, would strike back at a sovereign state are gently reminded of our recent adventures in Iraq.) So far, so chilling. But Chandler turns out to be one more Patterson superhero with a symbolically troubled back story, an ideologically challenging ex-lover and improbably greater gifts for intelligence and survival than the disposable supporting cast.Patterson (In the Name of Honor,2010, etc.) grabs you with an all-too-plausible fantasy of nuclear Armageddon, but the tension oozes away in the wait for his fictional puppets to hit their preordained marks. Sometimes truth is scarier than fiction.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

In his latet thriller, best-selling Patterson tackles the possibility of a nuclear threat from al-Qaeda. Set just prior to the tenth anniversary of 9/11, the novel opens with shadowy al-Qaeda operative Amer Al Zaroor outlining a plan to steal a nuclear weapon from Pakistan. Young CIA agent Brooke Chandler, who was stationed in Lebanon before his cover was blown, begins to suspect that an attack is coming. He alerts his superiors, who are somewhat skeptical about Brooke's certainties that the bomb is actually intended for Israel, not America, and that al Qaeda will be deploying it from the heart of Hizbullah territory in Lebanon. Patterson does an excellent job of delineating the very complex politics in the Middle East from all sides, but the result is that the book is more informative than it is pulse-pounding. There is far more talking than action. But the threat Patterson imagines is frighteningly realistic, and the result is a thoroughly engrossing look at a complex and volatile region. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The timeliness and alarming intensity of the topic will make this an especially hot book from the author of eight respected international bestsellers.--Huntley, Kristine Copyright 2010 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

NOTHING solidifies the reputation of a spy novelist so much as prescience. Graham Greene's "Quiet American" appeared only a year after the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu, and before American advisers had been sent to Vietnam in large numbers. Four years before the Cuban missile crisis, with Fulgencio Batista still in power, Greene wrote another novel, this one about possible secret military installations in Cuba. As for Ian Fleming, his vision of nonstate terrorist groups seeking nuclear weapons remains the most frightening and relevant aspect of the James Bond series. Richard North Patterson would probably admit he does not hope his latest "entertainment," as Greene would have called it, is prescient in the least. It tells the tale of Al Qaeda's plan to set off a nuclear bomb on Sept. 11, 2011. Indeed, all that stands between a solemn anniversary and Osama bin Laden's evil designs are Brooke Chandler, a patriotic C.I.A. agent, and his mentor, Carter Grey, now retired. The plot sends Chandler to the Middle East, and the narrative alternates between Chandler's attempts to uncover the bomb's location, and the workings of Al Qaeda, specifically a dastardly operative taking orders from Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. (Bin Laden's appearance in "western" Pakistan in the prologue might date the book a bit, but Patterson's portrayal of the terrorist leader directing plots and speaking portentously is in keeping with the discoveries following his death in Abbottabad last month.) From before Fleming's time, villains have always been more complex than heroes, and that's true here as well. Patterson doesn't have any huge insights into the two leaders of Al Qaeda, but they are certainly livelier than Chandler, who has all the dullness of Tom Clancy's stick figures. Patterson avoids the rightwing talking points that animate Clancy's stories, but the result is still tedious. We are given hints that Chandler's interests extend beyond his world of intrigue and espionage - on his night table sit a translation of "War and Peace" and some Arabic poetry - but the narrative never allows him much in the way of an inner life. His relationship with an Israeli woman brings the book almost to a halt; their romantic conversations revolve around topics like the political history of her homeland. "A right-wing Israeli had assassinated Yitzhak Rabin, our greatest hope for peace. So we had an election: Rabin's successor, Peres, who also favored peace, against Netanyahu, a man supported by fanatics." Chandler undoubtedly finds this kind of talk sexier than the reader will. Patterson, who has written several best-selling political thrillers, is a solid storyteller who doesn't allow nuanced characterization to interrupt his well-worked plots. The merit of his books, and what makes them occasionally lugubrious, is his effort to show off his research. "The Israelis provided us with a salutary lesson: another invasion in 1996, this time to wipe out Hezbollah. The result was a mass exodus of Shia from the south and the indiscriminate killing of civilians by the I.D.F., whether by accident or design. The worst was when the I.D.F. shelled Qana, where the U.N. was sheltering Shia refugees." This is Chandler speaking, and he is only one of Patterson's characters who enjoy the monologue. We receive lectures on almost every "hot" topic, from the history of Al Qaeda and Hezbollah to the political situations in Pakistan and Lebanon. There are even references to WikiLeaks. Writers as distinct from Patterson as Rebecca West have used this narrative approach to excellent effect, but here it feels painfully choreographed. Patterson can write, and he does seem to have an interest in the world as it exists. Perhaps next time he will tell us tomorrow's news rather than yesterday's. Patterson's portrait of Bin Laden is in line with the discoveries following his death. Isaac Chotiner is the executive editor of The Book: An Online Review at The New Republic.

Library Journal Review

In Patterson's 19th thriller (after In the Name of Honor), two skilled tacticians maneuver toward an ultimate goal. Osama bin Laden orders Amer Al Zaroor, an al-Qaeda operational genius, to smuggle a nuclear weapon from Pakistan and detonate it over Tel Aviv. U.S. intelligence officials commission Brooke Chandler, a highly trained CIA agent, to prevent the devastation on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. The two adversaries gain assistance from colleagues throughout the Middle East. Patterson, known for his extensive research, consulted with past and present members within the U.S. intelligence and defense communities, which enabled him to craft a highly credible plot. Their varied insights and experiences enrich Patterson's compelling story, which is also steeped with history and nuance. -VERDICT Discussing nuclear proliferation, counterterrorism, and loose nuclear weapons on the anniversary of 9/11 requires authority and accuracy. Patterson masterfully achieves this objective. Fans of Patterson and other thrillers will welcome this gripping read. [See Prepub Alert, 11/22/10.]-Jerry P. Miller, Cambridge, MA (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.