A really really good political spy novel, with thriller-ish moments…
I don’t read many “thrillers” and I probably would have given Philip Kaplan’s Night in Tehran a miss, except that I read the author’s biography and got intrigued. It turns out Kaplan spent 27 years in the US Foreign Service, rising to the rank of Ambassador, so it seemed to me that he should know the high-level/high-stakes diplomatic world that forms the background for his book. And then I noticed that the book’s webpage had recommendations from both Alan Furst and Admiral James Stavridis – kind of a mismatched pair! So in the end, I figured that any book that had been recommended by both of those two would be worth a try, and I’m really glad I did.
It turns out that, although Night in Tehran has been advertised as a thriller, to me it’s more of a political/spy novel. Think less James Bond, and more a cross between Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising and Erskine Childers’ Riddle of the Sands – two books I like a lot. It has occasional thriller-ish moments, but mostly it’s just a gripping narrative of the US/Iran relationship during the time leading up to and after the overthrow of the Shah. And there’s a very nice fictional storyline woven in and around the historical people and events that keeps it from being just a history book. The writing is sharp and enjoyable and the characters are believable. And even though I knew how it had to end (who doesn’t), I still couldn’t put it down.
As I’ve said elsewhere on my blog, my default rating tends to be four-stars, but Night in Tehran was better than that. It isn’t the sort of book I usually like that much, but I did. So I’m going with a four-and-a-half, and that means that unless you absolutely hate political/spy novels, you should read this one!
And my thanks to Melville House and Edelweiss for the review copy!