Beirut Station by Paul Vidich

Having just read The Mercenary, Beirut Station turned up really quickly in the library and this one had far more tension in it. There were moments when I had to read quickly to see what happened.

Analise Assad works for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees but is also a spy, known only to the CIA and Mossad and is at the end of her tour. Problems always occur at this point in a spy’s time in a place, and it being Beirut, there are always plenty of problems. Here, Najib Qassem must be assassinated because he wants to kill Condoleezza Rice on her peace-making visit. It’s complicated already! However, there is a murderer also working in the city and the two plots end up combining and becoming one.

There are car bombs, the bombing of Beirut suburbs by Israel and many deaths in this twisting and turning novel and it exposes us all to the many moral issues that arise when working in such situations. Should Qassem be ‘taken out’ in his car when he has his grandchildren with him? Should Mossad/Israel be driving or enacting America’s foreign policy? Is Mossad really the ‘best’ at espionage? Recent activities in Israel and Gaza suggest not and yet here they seem supreme in their abilities. (I accept that the book was written before these events.) I was also interested in the role of journalism in places such as this where information gathered by spies or journalists is all information. Should journalists be used in this way? Does it put them in more danger?

There were a couple of things in the book that I thought stretched the imagination a little. Would the CIA be using a house that Philby had lived in as a safe house? Why was Philby referred to so often in the second half of the book? He didn’t really contribute to the plot.

When asked to describe the book in 5 words, two of the words Vidich used were ‘love story’. Yes, there is a strange love story between Analise and Corben, a journalist, but the bigger love story is with Beirut, what it used to be and the degradation of that to what it has become. Revenge is a big theme in the book, as is remembering what Beirut used to be like. Neither are about living in the present and that may be one of the challenges of the place.

Every spy book I pick up claims that the author is the next John le Carré, including this one. But Vidich isn’t. Not yet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *