Agents of Innocence

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Spanning a time period from 1969 to 1984 and locales from Beirut to London, AGENTS OF INNOCENCE is the first novel by former Middle East correspondent David Ignatius. Tom Rogers is a CIA agent recently assigned to the Beirut beat, where he finds that the diplomatic social scene in which his superiors are so involved has meant that much work is left undone in the world of Lebanese intrigue. Rogers begins cultivating a contact in the Palestinian intelligence community, Jamal Ramlawi--a young man with excessive tastes in money and women.

Rogers and Ramlawi barely trust each other, but it is an alliance that proves crucial as Rogers finds that this time he is a watcher who is being watched himself. Yakov Levi, an Israeli agent who belongs to an undercover cell, spies on Rogers as Ramlawi rises to power as a terrorist. Rogers finds that he not only must deal with these adversarial forces on the Middle Eastern front but must also fight the political superstructure within the CIA.

AGENTS OF INNOCENCE draws its strength--and its weakness--from Ignatius’ realistic portrayal of the battleground of international intrigue. As the action stretches over several years and involves a comprehensive cast of characters, the reader is propelled through the story by compelling characters and plot rather than page-turning suspense.

Surprisingly, what is most memorable is the detailed portrayal of the Arab character and how it has influenced global events. While the Americans are absorbed in incestuous gossip and social maneuvering, the reader sees through Rogers’ eyes that the natives of Beirut--Jews and Palestinians alike--have roots in thousands of years of pain and deprivation. “These people were born with masks on,” one American agent comments. Perhaps the real truth uncovered in this novel is not whodunit but why it is done at all.