Friday, August 1, 2014

Agency Rules **Book Blast**

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.

About the Author:
 Born in Pakistan's troubled Swat Valley, educated and raised in the United States, Khalid returned to Pakistan almost 17 years ago and fell in love with his country. His debut novel, Agency Rules - Never an Easy Day at the Office, is a journey behind the headlines about Pakistan, the world's most dangerous place, to deliver an intense story that will challenge the reader to question what they have been told.

Find out more about him at, @AgencyRulesPK ( or the Agency Rules Facebook page (

Ali Crean (5) on Tongue Wagger - Agency Rules - Never An Easy Day At The Office by Khalid Muhammad

This novel would cross a very broad genre base and if I had to start naming them I would say that this is a Political Thriller, Espionage Suspense, Military Fiction, Action, Adventure, Terrorism Fiction, Crime Fiction, History, Multicultural and I think we can throw in Middle Eastern Fiction on top of that--like a cherry on top. A novel this versatile has a lot to offer to many readers but it also speaks to the complexity of the plotline and the depth of the storytelling. Khalid masterfully builds Agency Rules from the introduction of the politicians in the beginning, intricately weaving threads, to pull the most prominent players together with the most remote events and social maneuvering until a large theater is revealed, complete with villains and dark knights.

I don't quite understand what it is about mystery, suspense and the figures--whether it is in history or fiction--who have the ability to wield great power and yet walk in shadows and fade into obscurity that always seems somewhat compelling, and perhaps even seductive to me. Khalid's main character, Kamal Khan, begins the story as a very accomplished and decorated sniper. He is chosen to take on a delicate job and with that success he finds he is quickly advanced through ISI training and becomes an intelligence officer. His keen eye, wit and disposition make him particularly good at what he does. The sniper who once did his work from a distance, removed from the life he ended, is now excelling at terror tactics and accomplished at interrogation. He has become the weapon he no longer needs a sniper rifle. As I read the novel, Kamal's character was not an attractive or particularly appealing hero, he's a very dark and cruel man--yet there is something incredibly alluring about the idea of someone having such power. Kamal is nothing if not the iron fist that determines life and death. For all intents and purposes he has become an Angel of Death--if I may apply a non-Muslim ideal to it and for some reason in my head that ability to choose who lives and who dies is an very artful quality.

As I said, there is a very complex story within the pages of Agency Rules and it is not just Kamal's gathering of evidence. The Ministry squabbles throughout the novel while trying to create figureheads, alliances and downfalls within their own political hierarchy. The Pakistani Military is trying to keep ahead of the Jihadis and sift through paramilitary interference, and stay out of politics and civil affairs. And the mujahideen are pulling all their alliances together to fight against the corruption of the West in their struggle for Allah. No one is who they seem and nothing is ever as it appears.

Khalid is currently working on the second book in this series and I can't wait for it. I dislike cliffhangers and this one was particularly teeth grinding. I really don't have a book to recommend for this but I would say that this would be a great read for those who like any of the genres mentioned above and my father-in-law. Wow! He just got a shout out!

Sunshine Somerville (4.5)

The very best thing about this book is that it doesn’t feel like an American perspective dominates the story. As a reader, you feel at all times that you’re getting an insider’s angle, which is refreshing compared to many modern spy/espionage books where an American has to ride in and save the day. Even the terrorists here are portrayed as complex characters with thoughtful motivations. Kamal, as a main character, works perfectly to lead the way into the complexities of Pakistan. I found the political characters just as interesting as Kamal, and the layers and layers of complication involved in the government were gripping. The flavor of the culture comes through at every point in this book, and it always feels like it’s written by someone who genuinely knows this world. Some people might find the bits of native-tongue dialogue annoying or frustrating when not translated, but I really appreciated the touch.

I can’t comment on the “accuracy” of any of the Pakistani political or military elements because that is all quite literally foreign to me, but this book certainly intensified my curiosity about a part of the world I know little about. And since this is a work of fiction, I think it’s fine to just go along with it and dive into the story. The military action and spy/thriller parts of the book are smart and thought out, and again it’s helpful to take this all in through Kamal’s eyes. The slower, more tension-building parts of the book are equally well-crafted. Kamal is just as dangerous and deadly as he is smart and capable, which is a nice balance for this kind of story.

Sometimes jumping to new characters was a bit confusing because they were so minor you forgot about them for a while, but the ending pulls everything back together so you see what the author was doing, even if it’s a tiny bit lurching. But, since this IS a book about spies, I liked that I had to really focus and try to sort out some things for myself rather than have every little answer handed to me. And there are some typos scattered throughout, but nothing anywhere near distracting enough to make me stop reading.

Overall, I definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes spy novels and/or who wants to get a feel for a part of the world most of us aren’t exposed to.

 Available on Amazon