This is simply a very bad espionage thriller. This blurb (also found at the Amazon page linked to above) by a former head of the CIA must be an example of dezinformatsiya in a desperate effort to boost the Company’s image:
“A truly sensational read! In fact, Damascus Station is the best spy novel I have ever read. David McCloskey experienced Syria firsthand as a CIA analyst, and he delivers a thrilling, graphic, gripping, and realistic―albeit fictional―portrayal of the CIA and the bloody, tragic Syrian uprising. I lived this extraordinarily frustrating episode in Agency history, and I could not put this book down [trying to escape the Agency’s failures?].“
― General David Petraeus, US Army (Ret.), former director of the CIA, and former commander of the Surge in Iraq, US Central Command, and International and US Forces in Afghanistan
[By the way on p. 4 there is a reference to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service giving operational assistance in Ottawa to our hero.]
The story amounts to a cross between the omnipresent and almost omnicapable CIA of the Jason Bourne movies (without the cinematographic virtues, just the silly plotting) and super-agent James Bond. Lots of needless accounts of food and clothing and lots of sex, sex, sex. Plus blood and gore including scalpings. The whole shebang makes John Buchan’s hero, Richard Hannay, seem a virtual model of realism.
Examples of the author’s, er, style:
1) P. 286:
She [a very well-placed Syrian security official with the Assad government, from of good family, who has recently been recruited by our intrepid hero] wore jeans and a white T-shirt underneath an olive-drab Barbour [nice touch, eh?] coat. She’d curled her hair slightly and wore it down, but it did not hide the large gold hoop earrings dangling in the breeze. Sam [our hero] was sporting a long-sleeve gray T-shirt and jeans with a pair of driving shoes, and he realized they looked like many of the other vacationing couples that had descended upon the square. He ordered Tuscan ragù with boar, Mariam cacio e pepe [ah, those Bond touches]. “Just like in Èze,” she said as she handed the dinner menu back to the waitress. Sam smiled back at her, thinking of that first night, hearing her earrings jangling as they’d moved together. He wondered if they were the same ones she had on now.
2) P. 287:
“I will always protect you, Mariam. Always,” he whispered into her ear. “The work we have chose is dangerous, but it led us to each other. “And we’ll finish this together in Damascus, I promise.” He kissed her forehead and then her mouth, savoring the feel of her hair as he caressed her neck.
“The is something about us,” she said. It gives me power. I can’t do this without you, Sam.”
He was beginning to think the same thing…
Spy soap, what?
2) P. 334:
“This might actually be the last time, habibi, she said.
“I know,” he said. “But we’re usually wrong.”
Now that sure is a pseud-Bond one-liner.
The plot is a mountain of implausibilities, so that when it is revealed (p. 243) that the Mossad deputy chief of station in D.C. is an asset of Russia’s foreign intelligence service (SVR) one really cannot take it seriously. Whereas in a good thriller that should be a crucial element of the story.
As for implausible–and pure Jason Bourne–as Sam is in the midst of recruiting Mariam on the French Riviera they go to her hotel room late one evening. They are attacked there by three Syrian thugs being used off the books by another Assad security official out to get Mariam for his own reasons. Our dynamic duo swiftly terminate the three fellows with extreme dispatch and prejudice. They exit the hotel (which fortuitously has no security cameras to record them), Sam calls the CIA station chief in Paris, and he arranges for the three bodies to be disposed of and the room rendered spotless before housekeeping gets to it the next morning.
Wow (pp. 112-17).
As a former analyst, not a clandestine services operator, perhaps Mr McCloskey is trying to fulfill his fantasies with the book.
PREDATE: More on Richard Hanny from 2018: