- - Thursday, December 22, 2011


By Chet Nagle
Aarhus Publishing, $16.95, 260 pages

If you have read the author’s novel “Iran Covenant,” for which this is the “prequel,” you will have met Morteza Dehesh. He has exquisite manners; he knows and loves fine wine - and he is deadly. This time, he intends to bring chaos to the United States by means of biological and nuclear weapons. Dehesh is no dreamer. He plans carefully and well, and thereupon hangs this gripping tale.

Chet Nagle knows Iran and its region well, from his career in international intelligence. Thus, the descriptions of places and people ring true. You can almost see the action as you read about it.

The narrative shifts back and forth between Iran and the United States, with Jeremiah “Jake” Adams as the American protagonist. Adams had been special assistant to the secretary of defense with a “portfolio” that was highly flexible. Alas for Adams, the longtime secretary has just died and he has not met his successor; however, a haughty aide to that successor abruptly tells Adams that his services are no longer needed. With unexpected time on his hands, Adams “retires” to his place on the shore. Through his many contacts, he soon finds himself caught up in a search for a mysterious submarine.

Dehesh, meanwhile, has chosen two Palestinians as the bearers of his weapons. One is smart and filled with cold rage; the other dumb, but fearless and cruel. For them, Dehesh has created a plan that is thorough to the smallest detail. If carried out, this plan will wreak havoc on the population of the Washington area and bring the business of government to a halt.

Adams has a string of successful escapades behind him, all of them carried out quietly and often secretly. He has two women in his life, as well. One is a romantic interest; the other businesslike, but with an underlying affection. In many thrillers, the characters are two-dimensional. Not in this book. The women and all the men, friend or foe, are drawn clearly, making the drama all the more compelling. The reader even feels some sympathy for the submarine captain who, despite the evil nature of his mission, is dutiful and gallant.

To tell details of the plot would rob you of the tension that fills nearly every page and likely will keep you up late turning those pages until all is revealed. Suffice to say that in these days of heightened tensions over Iran’s motives, plans and actions, the plot of “The Woolsorters’ Plague” is entirely plausible. It will make you hope that the real occupants of the Pentagon are as clear-minded and steady as Jake Adams is if and when they find themselves in a crisis situation.

Peter Hannaford is a member of the Committee on the Present Danger. His latest book is “Reagan’s Roots: The People and Places That Shaped His Character” (Images From the Past, 2011).



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