cover image The Exile: The Stunning Inside Story of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda in Flight

The Exile: The Stunning Inside Story of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda in Flight

Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy. Bloomsbury, $30 (640p) ISBN 978-1-62040-984-8

In this remarkable work of literary-style investigative journalism, Scott-Clark and Levy (The Siege: 68 Hours Inside the Taj Hotel) trace the story of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda in the decade after the 9/11 attacks, from the perspective of the militants themselves. The authors utilize their extraordinary access to al-Qaeda’s inner circle and many other key players to fracture the U.S. government’s near-monopoly of public information. Combining countless interviews with declassified materials and secondary literature, they construct a riveting narrative of the terror group’s experiences, including the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan, al-Qaeda’s secrecy and evasion tactics, drone attacks, interpersonal drama, and the climactic raid on bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound. Readers gain insight on the roles of Iranian and Pakistani intelligence services in shielding al-Qaeda militants, the inefficacy of torture, the counterproductive bluster of the Bush administration, and the role the Iraq invasion played in the growth of jihadi movements. The book’s fascinating perspective exposes layers of human complexity in individuals who are often shrouded by intrigue, and brings nuance to the general Western understanding of jihadi groups. This extensively researched, eminently readable work greatly enhances public knowledge of these dramatic years and will be welcomed by specialists and general readers alike. Agent: David Godwin, David Godwin Associates (U.K.). (May)