Under the Radar

Bin Laden from Beyond the Grave



Jeremy Fisk, the hero of Law & Order creator Dick Wolf's new first novel The Intercept,  is a detective assigned to the NYPD's Intelligence Division of the Joint Terrorism Task Force. He's on the team that goes through the intel pulled out of Osama bin Laden's compound and he's convinced that the Al Qaeda mastermind was plotting something big before the SEALs took him out. Fisk's fears prove true after a civilian takedown of a hijacker on a plane headed for NYC turns out to be a cover for a more nefarious plot aimed at the dedication ceremony for the finally completed One World Trade Center tower.

The Intercept's plot hinges on the USA falling into an enthusiastic patriotic blindness generated when the news media hypes a feel-good story about regular citizens stopping a terror attack. Crafty old Osama counted on that vanity and excitement to set up a far more nefarious plot and only crusty old Detective Fisk sees through the evil plan.

How you feel about this kind of thing is most likely connected to how you feel about Law & Order and its many spinoffs: are the shows predictable and way too focused on procedure? Or do you think their dogged adherence to formula became its own kind of art sometime after you'd seen your 200th rerun on TNT?

If you're in the second group (like me), there's a lot to like here. Wolf keeps it moving with a minimum of distracting personal details and manages to wrap up those loose ends by the end of the book. Wolf knows NYC and its police vs. Feds vs. the media vs. City Hall politics as well as anyone and he's figured out a way to launch a (already announced) series of spy thrillers that can draw on that expertise. In the interview video embedded below, Wolf claims he was about to launch a series about the NYPD's anti-terrorism unit when 9/11 happened and it's taken him this long to figure out the best way to use the research he did and contacts he made for that cancelled program.

The book also features a lot of set pieces that seem like ideas that were too expensive to film for a network TV show and the whole thing reads a bit like a novelization of a movie script. Wolf claims he decided to write the novel when he found himself with a lot of extra time after the cancellation of Law & Order, extra time he's used to also make the Stars Earn Stripes reality show and the new series Chicago Fire.

If you enjoy Wolf's brand of crime procedural and want a little dose of Al Qaeda paranoia after the happy ending of Zero Dark Thirty, The Intercept gets the job done.

Here's Dick dealing with his virtual book tour. He looks like he'd rather be writing:


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