Dan Fesperman The Prisoner of Guantánamo

ISBN 13: 9781423317814

The Prisoner of Guantánamo

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9781423317814: The Prisoner of Guantánamo
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Revere Falk—FBI veteran, Arabic speaker—is an interrogator at “Gitmo,” assigned to a “hold-out,” a Yemeni prisoner who may have valuable information about al Qaeda. But these duties are temporarily suspended when the body of an American soldier is found washed ashore in Cuban territory. No American has ever turned up dead on the wrong side of the fence before.

Suddenly, Cold War tension is back and Falk finds himself at the heart of it when he’s put in charge of the investigation into the death. Almost immediately he senses an unusual level of interest in the proceedings: from his commander, from the Cubans, and from the various factions of the military. And when the Defense Intelligence Agency unexpectedly sends its own team to “reinforce” the investigation, Falk understands that there is much more at stake than anybody is willing to say.

Now, he is drawn into a game of evasion and pursuit, a game whose stakes spike dangerously when a figure from his past reappears—someone who knows secrets about him that he had hoped were buried forever.

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About the Author:

Dan Fesperman’s travels as a writer have taken him to thirty countries and three war zones. Lie in the Dark won the Crime Writers’ Association of Britain’s John Creasey Memorial Dagger Award for best first crime novel, The Small Boat of Great Sorrows won their Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for best thriller, and The Prisoner of Guantánamo won the Dashiell Hammett Award from the International Association of Crime Writers. He lives in Baltimore.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

CHAPTER ONE

On the first day of his transition from captor to captive, Revere Falk stood barefoot on a starlit lawn at 4 a.m., still naively confident of his place among those who asked the questions and hoarded the secrets.

Falk was an old hand at concealment, trained from birth. The skill came in handy when you were an FBI interrogator. Who better to pry loose the artifacts of other lives than someone who knew all the hiding places? Better still, he spoke Arabic.

Not that he was putting his talents to much use at Guantanamo. And at the moment he was furious, having just returned from a botched session that summed up everything he hated about this place: too few detainees of real value, too many agencies tussling over the scraps, and too much heat—in every sense of the word.

Even at this hour, beads of sweat crawled across his scalp. By the time the sun was up it would be another day for the black flag, which the Army hoisted whenever the temperature rose beyond reason. An apt symbol, Falk thought, like some rectangular hole in the sky that you might fall into, never to reappear. A national banner for Camp Delta's Republic of Nobody, populated by 640 prisoners from forty countries, none of whom had the slightest idea how long they would be here. Then there were the 2,400 other new arrivals in the prison security force, mostly Reservists and Guardsmen who would rather be elsewhere. Throw in Falk's little subculture—120 or so interrogators, translators, and analysts from the military and half the branches of the federal government—and you had the makings of a massive psychological experiment on performing under stress at close quarters.

Falk was from Maine, a lobsterman's son, and what he craved most right now was dew and coolness, moss and fern, the balm of fogbound spruce. Failing that, he would have preferred to be nuzzled against the perfumed neck of Pam Cobb, an Army captain who was anything but stern once she agreed to terms of mutual surrender.

He sighed and gazed skyward, a mariner counting stars, then pressed a beer bottle to his forehead. Already warm, even though he had grabbed it from the fridge only moments earlier, as soon as he reached the house. The air conditioner was broken, so he had stripped off socks and shoes and sought refuge on the lawn. But when he wiggled his toes the grass felt toasted, crunchy. Like walking on burned coconut.

If he thought it would do any good, he would pray for rain. Almost every afternoon big thunderheads boiled up along the green line of Castro's mountains to the west, only to melt into the sunset without a drop. From up on this scorched hillside you couldn't even hear the soothing whisper of the Caribbean. Yet the sea was out there, he knew, just beyond the blackness of the southern horizon. Falk sensed it as a submerged phosphorescence pooling beneath coral bluffs, aglow like a candle in a locked closet. Or maybe his mind was playing tricks on him, a garden-variety case of Guantánamo loco.

It wasn't his first outbreak. Twelve years ago he had been posted here as a Marine, serving a three-year hitch. But he had almost forgotten how the perimeter of the base could seem to shrink by the hour, its noose of fencelines and humidity tightening by degrees. A Pentagon fact sheet for newcomers said that Gitmo—the military's favorite slang for this outpost—covered forty-five square miles. Like a lot of what the brass said, it was misleading. Much of the acreage was water or swamp. Habitable territory was mostly confined to a flinty wedge of six square miles. The plot marked out for Camp Delta and the barracks of the security forces was smaller still, pushed against the sea on fewer than a hundred acres.

Falk stood a few miles north of the camp. By daylight from his vantage point, with a good pair of binoculars, you could pick out Cuban watchtowers in almost every direction. They crouched along a no-man's-land of fences, minefields, wet tangles of mangrove, and scrubby hills of gnarled cactus. The fauna was straight out of a Charles Addams cartoon—vultures, boas, banana rats, scorpions, and giant iguanas. Magazines and newspapers for sale at the Naval Exchange were weeks old. Your cell phone was no good here, every landline was suspect, and e-mail traffic was monitored. Anyone who stayed for long learned to operate under the assumption that whatever you did could be seen or heard by their side or yours. Even on the free soil of a civilian's billet such as Falk's you never knew who might be eavesdropping, especially now that OPSEC—Operational Security—had become the mantra for Camp Delta's cult of secrecy. It was all enough to make Falk wish that Gitmo still went by its old Marine nickname—the Rock. Like Alcatraz.

He took another swallow of warm beer, still trying to calm down. Then the phone rang in the kitchen. He ran to answer in hopes of not waking his roomie, special agent Cal Whitaker, only to be greeted by the voice of Mitch Tyndall. Tyndall worked for the OGA, or Other Government Agency, which even the lowliest buck private could tell you was Gitmo-speak for the CIA.

"Hope I didn't wake you," Tyndall said.

"No way I'd be sleeping after that."

"That's what I figured. I was hoping to mend fences."

"The ones you just tore down?" Falk's anger returned in a hurry.

"Guilty as charged."

Tyndall sounded sheepish, new ground for him, although for the most part he wasn't a bad guy. A tall Midwesterner with a long fuse, he generally aimed to please as long as no sharing was required. Falk tended to get more out of him than others if only because they were part of the same five-member "tiger team," the organizational equivalent of a platoon in Gitmo's intelligence operation. There were some twenty-five tiger teams in all, little study groups of interrogators and analysts that divvied their turf by language and home country of the detainees. Falk's team was one of several that specialized in Saudis and Yemenis.

"Look, I spaced out," Tyndall continued. "Just blundered in there like a bull in a china shop. I wasn't thinking."

Occupational hazard with you Agency guys, Falk thought but didn't say. Unthinking arrogance came naturally, he supposed, when you were at the top of the food chain, rarely answerable to anyone, the Pentagon included. Teammates or not, there were plenty of places Tyndall could go that Falk couldn't. The CIA sometimes used a different set of interrogation rooms, and recently the Agency had even built its own jail, Camp Echo. It was Gitmo's prison within a prison, and its handful of high-priority inmates were identified by number instead of by name.

"Yeah, well, there seems to be a lot of mindlessness going around," Falk said.

"Agreed. So consider this a peace offering. Or an apology, at any rate. We might as well kiss and make up, considering where things are headed."

"The rumors, you mean? Spies in our midst? Arab linguists on a secret jihad?"

"It's not just rumor, not by a long shot."

Coming from Tyndall, that was significant, so Falk tried to goad him into saying more.

"Oh, I wouldn't believe everything you hear, Mitch."

Tyndall seemed on the verge of rising to the bait, then checked himself with a sigh.

"Whatever. In any case. No hard feelings?"

"None you couldn't fix with a favor or two. And maybe a few beers at the Tiki Bar. It's Adnan's feelings you should be worried about. I'll be lucky to get two words out of him after that little explosion. It's all about trust, Mitch. Trust is everything with these guys." He should have quit there, but his memory flashed on a slide they always showed at the FBI Academy in Quantico, a screen full of big letters saying, "Interrogation is overcoming resistance through compassion." So he pushed onward, a sentence too far: "Maybe if you guys would stop stripping 'em naked with the room at forty degrees you'd figure that out."

"I wouldn't believe everything you hear," Tyndall snapped.

"Whatever. Just stay away from Adnan. He's damaged goods as it is."

"No argument there. Tomorrow, then."

"Bright and early. And remember, you owe me."

Falk stared at the phone after hanging up, wondering if anyone bothered to tune in at this hour. Whitaker was no longer snoring down the hall.

"Sorry," Falk offered, just in case. "It was Tyndall. From the goddamn Agency."

No reply, which was just as well. The fewer people who knew about their little dustup, the better. People who ran afoul of Mitch Tyndall soon found themselves being shunned. It wasn't the man's winning personality that turned everyone against you, it was the perception that he was privy to the big picture, while all you had was a few fuzzy snapshots. So if you were on the outs with Tyndall, there must be an important reason, even if no one but him knew what it was. Falk had long ago concluded that Tyndall wasn't fully aware of his mysterious powers, and it probably would be unwise to clue him in.

The subject of their dispute this evening was a nineteen-year-old Yemeni, Adnan al-Hamdi, a pet project of Falk's if only because he would talk to no one else. Adnan had been captured in Afghanistan nearly two years earlier, during a skirmish just west of Jalalabad. He and sixty other misfit jihadists from Pakistan, Chechnya, and the Gulf States had been rounded up by Tadjik fighters of the Northern Alliance in the wake of the Taliban's mad-dash retreat to the south. They wound up rotting in a provincial prison for six weeks until discovered by t...

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9781400096145: The Prisoner of Guantanamo (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)

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