To quickly summarize my reaction to this book, let me just say I found it agonizingly engaging. What I mean by this is that The Inheritor by Tom Wither left me shaking and jittery when I had to put it down because I wanted to keep reading it!
I was worried, at first, because I normally don't care for government agency books, but I was pleased to find an exception to this rule. Wither's methods for introducing the main characters was very well done. Some of the introductions were more pedestrian, Emily is starting out in the office, Agent Johnson is looking for a promotion. Then we get Lieutenant Matthews, called into a seemingly straight forward mission, only to be wondering right away what went wrong. All the while we get snippets of a man behind-the-scenes with a computer.
There were times when I felt Wither was giving more of a treatise on American Government/Politics in his expositions. Some of the back stories seem more like an essay on "how things are" instead of pushing the story forward, but after the first few chapters this habit because significantly less needed and the writing focuses more on the here-and-now.
The story itself is quite interesting. Breaking down America's energy infrastructure without publicly announcing any hatred against the US until well after your plans have taken place. It's quite intelligent and meant that none of the intelligence agencies were looking for the bad guy. It was only through sheer serendipity that they get any information leading to The Inheritor, and even that is circumstantial evidence. Meanwhile you have a "ghost" of the KGB organizing and implementing The Inheritor's plans.
On top of all of it, there are the natural emotional reactions to consequences of The Inheritor's plans. It doesn't help to read about one or two of the casualty's family lives. And with memories of terrorist attacks still in our memories, reading about people running towards the explosions looking to help and people walking around in shock are all-to realistic. There is also a lot of empathy for frustrated characters, "Cain could do nothing more than read about it and feel frustrated." We've all felt completely helpless when we hear of mass shootings, explosions, fires, natural disasters, etc.
But along with this humanization of casualties, you also get to see a humanity behind the terrorists carrying out the work. Ahmad is first seen in his house with his wife and children. He does this for his religion, but also for them, "They would sleep in a safer world after today." He is also the first to tell us "warriors do not kill women" as he is selecting his targets for the random shootings. In fact, during that phase of the plan, no women or children were killed. There are also several passage that back up my assertion never to trust a rich a "holy man".
Now, there are also several parts of this book that remind you that not all Muslims are terrorists. When Agent Johnson is in Saudi Arabia he is told, "You should see what our people are like while you are here." While few of the Saudi armed forces appreciate an American presence, an understanding of their culture does help. Johnson's informal request, that very nearly gets him fired, is greatly appreciated by Akeem, the Saudi who is working with him. Probably the most telling of the differences between American and Arab cultures is on page 259, with the explanation of the phrase "Insha'Allah", "if it is Allah's will". In the US, we very much like the idea of being in charge of our own lives. In the Arab world, lives are dictated by the will of Allah, and so you should not fret if things don't go how you wished, for Allah still has your best interests in mind. While I am not a Muslim, I do like this philosophy.
Overall, I find this book to be very engaging, very real, and I highly recommend it. I give it 4.5 Hoots.
disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher