By Mark Combs
Title: Agency Rules – Never an Easy Day at the Office
Author: Khalid Muhammad
Series or Standalone: First book in series
Celebrated as a ragtag force that defeated and broke the Soviet Union, no one predicted the Mujahideen would bring with them a plague that would spread like wildfire through Pakistan in the years to follow. When the battle-worn fighters returned with no enemy or war to fight, they turned their sights on the country that had been their creator and benefactor.
From the same battlegrounds that birthed the Mujahideen, a young Kamal Khan emerges as a different breed of warrior. Discarding his wealthy family comforts, Kamal becomes a precision sniper, an invincible commando and a clandestine operative bringing intimidation, dominance and death with him to the battlefield. Ending the plague is his prime directive.
Shrouded in political expediency, hampered by internal power struggles, international espionage and doublespeak that makes Washington’s spin doctors proud, Kamal’s mission is a nightmare of rampant militant fundamentalism that threatens to choke and take Pakistan hostage. For him, the fight is not just for freedom, but the survival of a nation.
I opened this book with no idea of what to expect. I don’t read a lot of spy novels, and most of what I have read has been from Robert Ludlum. What I found with Agency Rules was a book with a well-developed protagonist, Kamal Kahn, a trained sniper who wants to save Pakistan, his home country. By the end of the book, I grew to admire Kahn, a trained soldier and interrogator, and a patriot – someone who truly cares about his country, and will go to any lengths to do what he feels is in its best interest.
The novel’s plot was also well-developed, with a great whack of non-stop action, tempered by informative, expository passages. Agency Rules contains all the elements of a good spy novel: intrigue, deception, covert operatives, action, and political in-fighting, plus a fair amount of info about the people and the culture of Pakistan. America’s (and perhaps the world’s) view of Pakistan and its people is not a pleasant one, often presented as a place without rules or order, a place filled with corruption, a place where the people are either terrorists of passive victims. What the author shows us is that people who live in Pakistan are a proud people, people who care about their country, and are as disgusted by terrorism as the rest of the world.
Bottom line: Agency Rules is a good book, filled with enough action and character development to keep even casual readers of spy novels engaged.
Reviewer’s note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and impartial review.