Increment: A Novel

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The Increment: A Novel

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Bestseller Ignatius (Body of Lies) explores America's escalating cold war with Iran in a thriller sure to draw comparisons to le Carré's The Spy Who Came In from the Cold. When Harry Pappas, the new CIA chief of the Iran Operations Division, receives an unsolicited e-mail from an alleged Tehran scientist who calls himself "Dr. Ali" that implies Iran has in fact continued with its nuclear weapons program and is "an imminent threat to global peace," he shares the information with his superiors only to find an administration bent on warmongering. Having vowed never again to play a role in a senseless conflict that could potentially kill thousands of innocents, Pappas, whose only son was killed while serving in the second Iraq War, must somehow identify Dr. Ali, get him out of Iran and mine his knowledge before the U.S. blunders into another unnecessary war. While the realistic story lines build to a somewhat predictable ending, this remains a page-turner of the highest order. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Can a heartsore and weary CIA veteran juice up fresh, meaty intelligence from buttoned-down Tehran? Does his trusted Secret Intelligence Service colleague have an inside track, and will he share? Who really holds the cards on the nuclear weapons story in Iran? Ignatius (Body of Lies), the Washington Post columnist whose knowledge of spydom and exotic places brilliantly illuminates his espionage novels, imagines an Iran where a young physicist is ready to turn his back on the regime. Agent Harry Pappas works out a plausible lifeline, and the adventure begins. Ignatius floods his latest book with highlights of technology while exploring the dark heart of human betrayal with menacing ambiguity. This masterful and modern-day account of a realistic nuclear threat has already been sold to movie moguls and will be heavily promoted. A sure bet for all thriller collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ1/09.]
—Barbara Conaty

Kirkus Reviews
Another taut, believable thriller from Washington Post columnist Ignatius (Body of Lies, 2007, etc.), who pits a world-weary CIA agent against an administration looking for any reason to go to war. The thrill of fieldwork has long left CIA veteran Harry Pappas. He's done it all, seen it all and lost a piece of himself in the process. Now stationed at headquarters in D.C., running the agency's efforts to stay on top of Iran, Pappas cloisters himself with his small staff and monitors Teheran's nuclear capabilities. It's all pretty much business as usual, until a message from an unexpected inside source sets off a rush to judgment. Harry, still reeling from a personal loss, plays on an old relationship and takes a desperate gamble that leads him to the Increment, a British team that will risk everything in this complicated story of spies, diplomacy and nuclear confrontations. Deploying his considerable storytelling skills, the author once again immerses readers in a totally believable universe. Jargon, geography and detail all ring true as his meticulously crafted, tightly woven tale moves from Washington to London and Iran. The plot grabs everything in its path like a snowball rolling down a hill. As the action unfolds, Pappas proves both a capable protagonist and a man of principal: Rumpled and analytical, he has no delusions about his colleagues at the CIA and other intelligence services, but his sense of right and wrong compels him to keep trying to make a difference. Ignatius matches dead-on dialogue to an increasingly complicated plot without sacrificing clarity. A thinking person's thriller with a timely take on recent international politics. Film rights to Disney and JerryBruckheimer
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780594434269
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/3/2010
  • Pages: 390
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

David Ignatius, a prize-winning columnist for the Washington Post, has been covering the Middle East and the CIA for more than twenty-five years. His novels include Agents of Innocence, Body of Lies, and The Increment. He lives in Washington, DC.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 33 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 33 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 20, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Fun Espionage Thriller

    David Ignatius creates and builds upon an engagingly textured environment of spies and third world nuclear threat to create a realistic and fun espionage thriller. While I'd give Ignatius' effort three starts for the intricacies of the fiction as literature, I'd move it to a solid four stars for the well-woven and well-paced plot.

    The story revolves around a young Iranian scientist who sends the CIA a subtly coded message exposing Iran's efforts in developing nuclear weapons. His mode of communication is the "contact us" link available on the CIA's public website. Ignatius writes, "...occasionally the strange people who sent anonymous messages to the CIA were for real. They knew secrets; they were angry at their government, or the security service, or maybe just at the boss down the hall." In this case, the message was very real, and this communication becomes the launching point for Ignatius' tautly written novel.

    The story bounces between CIA headquarters outside of Washington, D.C., Iran, London and other points in the Middles East. It's in London where we learn the meaning behind the novel's title. The Increment is the informal and off-the-books British force that's pulled into only the highest of security missions, and the only forces that truly have James Bond's legendary 'license to kill'.

    The plot hums along, and the characters, while sometimes clichéd, are believable. The main threads of the story follow an aging America CIA agent in charge of operations in Iran. He's grizzled and jaded, and the most morally consistent and clear of all characters in the story. An old friend and colleague is a senior officer in the British spy agency who's brought in to help with the operation as it moves to Tehran. The Iranian scientist is sincere and sad. While not terrifically deep, Ignatius crafts this character strongly enough that the reader will actually care and root for his success and safety. Few characters are exclusively what they seem. They're a little good, and a little bad. Characteristics lean towards one side or the other based on whose side they appear to support. But as the plot develops, it becomes clear that some larger chess pieces are orbiting around the primary characters.

    I don't read particularly quickly, but this story I knocked off in only 3 days. At times "The Increment" is more mystery than adventure, and the thrill is in the creation, build up and execution of Ignatius' well though-through plan. He smoothly slams home a twisty, curvy conclusion that I wasn't expecting. All in all this was a satisfying read for what it is: a fun thriller with a very old-school spy vibe. I definitely recommend this read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2011

    Makes CSPAN Senate hearings interesting

    I finished this on the day of the vote for more sanctions (12-1-11) and their discussions were almost right out of this book. The book raises some big questions.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 10, 2009

    good for the times in which we live...

    I was anticipating the reading of this book- after hearing the author on NPR...but although an engaging and fast read (the reader wants to "see" what will happen next), it wasn't too complex.
    Stringing in the native language (farsi?) was interesting, and i could see a journalist who spent time there doing that~ but something was missing from the plot. I needed a little more, though the corruption possible in western governments and their diplomatic ties was interesting to learn, and hear about.

    The idea of an Iranian not happy with the direction his country has headed, after having a revolutionary father, and being educated in the western world, that would have mass appeal - to Americans and British, but not so sure about a wider audience. The corruption and capitalism revealed in the plot was a nice catch for this high school history/govt/economics teacher.
    Would make an interesting film, should he sell the rights.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 5, 2012


    Spy novel quite relevent to to 2012 issues, even if it is a few years old. Well written.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2011

    Highly recommended.

    Great story of modern day spying in Iran. Clearly, you can tell that the author knew the country, and had done his research into the subject matter. This is the second David Ignatius book that I read. He has an excellent style of writing that draws you in to the story. What struck me the most is knowledge of the area and a strong building of his characters in his books. A very good read.

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  • Posted September 15, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A Good Read, On the Beach or By the Fire

    The Increment by David Ignatius is an above average spy novel. The author is strong on story, strong on setting, and weak on characters. The author knows the Middle East and has more than a basic grasp of the world of intelligence.
    The author's familiarity with the Middle East makes it come alive to someone who has only seen it portrayed in the movies. He obviously understands this area, its customs and its complexities. He describes this setting in a manner that makes his story believable if not inevitable.
    His sometimes simplistic descriptions of intelligence objectives, operations, operatives, and analysis only follows the trend of most spy fiction. It was probably done primarily at the insistence of his editors and publisher, in order to produce a book in keeping with the genre and thereby commercially exploitable. His book is a cut above the spy novels of most of his contemporaries.
    His characters are flat, two dimensional at the most. He sometime mistakes character surprises for character development. But his story is engrossing and it moves along at a pace that keeps the reader's interest and his fingers turning pages. And in another way that sets David Ignatius above his contemporaries, he resorts to only one or two minor, gimmicky story twists so that the reader is left with a consistent and highly enjoyable story of suspense.

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  • Posted September 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:


    I was attracted to the book by the unusal details about life in Iran, which is all the news these days. I also like a good spy story. I was a little more than half right.

    The day to day life in Iran details are very interesting, and they take up much of the beginning of the book. Then in the middle of the book the spy story takes over. Lots and lots of spy craft. How to find a person willing to spy on his country. How to communicate with the spy, getting information from him, and contacting him back with questions and encouragement. So much spy craft it became tedious and I began to suspect much of it was filler to add pages to the book. It didn't help the characters were from central casting, nothing new in type or depth.

    There is some good action at the end, somewhat blunted by the fact I didn't particularly care about any of the characters. So all in all this is a B-/C+ grade of book.

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  • Posted July 6, 2009

    News as Novel

    First read from this author and I am looking forward to getting his older books. The plot was realistic, the characters were human and even though the plot was an offshoot from the news headlines, it was convincing. Ranks right up there with Follet and the other spy novel authors.

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  • Posted June 3, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Body of Iranian Lies

    Harry Pappas is a career CIA man who regrets not doing more to stop the war in Iraq, especially after losing his son there. When sinister forces in the White House and at the CIA seem intent on yet another war, this one against Iran, Pappas goes out of agency to do what he wishes he had done years ago- stop a war. He turns to his long ally in the British spy services at Vauxhall Cross. But here the deceit and treachery begin as Pappas tries to bring out an Iranian nuclear scientist who can possibly help with the info needed to stop the war forces. Shady hands get involved as the extraction becomes more complicated, and soon friends are full of surprises and lies spin as easily as the truth. Pappas learns some last lessons in his trade that help him maintain his determined goal. The Increment is a spy thriller for the intelligent reader who likes the twists and turns more than the explosions.

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    Posted September 30, 2010

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