The Breath of Allah by Steven W. Ritcheson

By Ekta R. Garg

Nov.2, 2011

Rated: Bookmark it!

In the current age of heightened awareness about terrorist attacks, any country is fair game.  What happens, then, when the U.S. intelligence community learns of a plot planned for the future?  And what could be the consequences when our own intelligence “soldiers” become involved?  First-time novelist Steven Ritcheson explores the answers to these questions and more in his high-paced thriller The Breath of Allah.

Charles “Charlie” Rayson heads the Technology Applications Group, otherwise known as TAG, a subsidiary of the Central Intelligence Agency.  When the book opens, Charlie has just arrived in Paris to help rescue the kidnapped daughter of an oil tycoon.  The kidnapping, Charlie learns, has been engineered by a sophisticated terrorist group known as the “Spear of Muhammad,” and kidnappings (among other illegal activities) help fund the group’s work.

With some of the brightest minds in the business, Charlie and his colleagues learn about a planned biological warfare attack called the Breath of Allah.  Members of the Spear will carry packets of anthrax to a busy bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey, and release them to make their message heard to the world and especially the West.  By developing a state-of-the-art cell phone virus, Charlie’s team members manage to track the phone conversations of Spear members and follow them through their planning sessions.  But when a threat from inside TAG appears, Charlie and the others must backtrack to fight the very tools they created for use against the terrorists to keep the country’s security—and their own lives—intact.

Ritcheson’s confidence radiates on every page.  Despite this being his first book, he handles all manners of conflict well and clearly knows his way around the foreign countries featured in the book.  His choice of the location for the main terrorist conflict, too, is a welcome change from the usual suspects in the Middle East.  Terrorism is a real threat, but it certainly is not restricted to a handful of countries or the citizens of those countries.  By keeping the story away from places like Iraq or Saudi Arabia, Ritcheson reminds readers of this truth.

In true spy-story style, the novel’s pace flies.  Chapters run no longer than three or four pages, and the narrative doesn’t rest too long in any one place.  Readers may find it slightly challenging to keep up when the TAG members discuss the specifics of the cutting-edge technology they’re using to infiltrate the terrorists’ network.  But the plot intrigues enough to excuse any technical entanglements, and author Ritcheson provides readers with a few surprises that challenge the expected thought process of stories of this nature.

I highly recommend this book for its solid writing, its compelling plot, and protagonist Charlie’s witty one-liners at the most unexpected yet apropos moments.  Fans of spy thrillers will certainly enjoy The Breath of Allah.

Reviewed for


What the ratings mean:

Bookmark it!–Read this book and then buy it and add it to to your own collection.  It’s definitely worth it!

Borrow it–Check this one out from the library; it’s a worthy read, but think twice before spending your hard-earned money on it.

Bypass it–Free time is precious.  Don’t spend it on this book!

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