Thursday, May 23, 2013

book review: The Intercept by Dick Wolf

The backstory: Dick Wolf, perhaps most famous for creating all of the Law & Order series, as well as my beloved Chicago Fire. The Intercept is his first novel, presumably of a series, given the subtitle: a Jeremy Fisk novel.

The basics: Jeremy Fisk is an NYPD officer who works in the Intelligence Division to combat terrorism. When a terror attempt on a commercial flight is disrupted days before July 4, when One World Trade Center is set to be dedicated, Fisk and partner Krina Gersten work to figure out who was behind the attack and what they might be planning next.

My thoughts: As much as I adore all things Law & Order (and Chicago Fire), I was somewhat skeptical about this novel. Does Wolf have novel-writing chops? Having brilliant ideas for television shows isn't easy, but it's also not necessarily the same skill set as writing a well-crafted terrorism thriller. My fears were soon put to rest, as Wolf skillfully developed characters and mixed it with a compelling and smart terrorism plot. The Intercept succeeds initially because it is so close to reality. Osama bin Laden is a character, and Wolf pulls the traditional "ripped from the headlines" stories you'd expect from the Law & Orders. The more you already know about these current events will likely heighten your enjoyment of this novel. Things are shocking and provocative, but they're logical, which makes it even more frightening:
"For every terror plot that arose organically, which is to say without domestic law enforcement interference--the underwear bomber in a jetliner over Detroit, or the planned attack on Fort Dix, New Jersey--two others originated with the prodding of undercover federal agents. Not unlike actual terror cell leaders, they radicalized vulnerable Muslim suspects by fomenting anti-American dissent and supplying the conspirators with dummy materials, such as fake C-4 explosive or harmless blasting caps. These paper conspiracies were then passed off as major law enforcement victories, vanquished threats to say that the FBI had instigated more terror plots in the United States since 9/11 than Al-Qaida."
Wolf also manages to write from the point of view of terrorists eerily: "They must be made to believe we repeat ourselves out of a desperation to act." My biggest problem Andre Dubus III's Garden of Last Days was that the voice of the terrorist wasn't believable. Wolf manages to bring understanding, if not quite empathy, to the mind of a terrorist. I said to more than one friend who pondered "who could do this?" after the Boston Marathon bombing: read The Intercept. It may not fully answer the question, but it gets quite close.

Favorite passage: "I have not lost God, Miss. What I have lost is the idea that I can ever know what God is. That is why religion has become a curse on the earth. Nobody can know. But everybody presumes. Many are willing to kill without knowing. Without even thinking."

The verdict: The Intercept is a confidant, smart, and thrilling debut. Jeremy Fisk is a fascinating and flawed character, and I eagerly await his next adventure.

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Length: 400 pages
Publication date: December 26, 2012 (it's out in paperback Tuesday!)
Source: publisher via Edelweiss

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Intercept from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle version.)

 As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!


  1. I've seen this around and even though SVU is one my favorite shows, I didn't manage to realize it was the same person until just now when I saw the name (but before I read your review). Funny how that happens. This looks really good. I'll have to keep it in mind. My family really likes books like this too so it might be one we could pass around!

  2. You had the same thought I did when I saw it was the same Dick Wolf! So glad the novel is tight -- it seems like deliciously trashy fun for the summer!


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