Dick Datchery at the Online Book Club posted a great 3 out of 4 review for Agency Rules – Never an Easy Day at the Office.
“Agency Rules is a spy thriller told from the perspective of Pakistani forces fighting against violent Islamic fundamentalists. I rate the book as 3 out of 4 stars. It is an exciting tale, well-written, and told from a perspective likely to be fresh and intriguing for Western readers. Fans of action fiction will want to read this one.
The main character in Agency Rules is a sniper-turned-spy for the Pakistani military. He infiltrates a training camp belonging to the militants and is instrumental later in planning a strike against the facility. The plot is always interesting, maintaining the action and the reader’s attention throughout the novel. The writing is consistently outstanding and flows well.
Aside from the action, Agency Rules also provides an engaging view of Pakistani public life, introducing complications that do not hamper fictional operatives based in Western countries. In this world, the Army is the real power in the country, and it acts independently of the civilian government. The frequently changing, corrupt, and inept governments are scorned by the military. Portions of the country are independent of central control, and the local forces in these areas are frequently loyal to the fundamentalists rather than the central government. Though Pakistan is theoretically allied with Western nations against the militants, those nations (especially the United States) are widely viewed as self-serving, hypocritical, even treacherous toward Pakistan. The reader, of course, is not obliged to accept these views, but given what we know of perceptions of the United States in some parts of the world, this antipathy rings true in the novel.
Authenticity is a strength of Agency Rules. Whether it is relating spy protocols, interagency rivalries, daily life in Pakistan, or military procedures, there is a believability to the narrative. One aspect of this authenticity, however, was difficult for me to read and marred my enjoyment of the book. Torture plays a significant part in the story and in the successes enjoyed by the protagonists. Certainly, from Pakistan’s reputation in the West, the emphasis on torture rings true. However, Agency Rules does not merely tell the truth about torture, it occasionally revels in it and clearly supports its use in certain circumstances. A reader who finds torture repugnant may well find it harder to identify and root for the heroes of the novel.
Although the writing and plot are strong, I did notice several times that, just when my curiosity and interest were piqued by a particular scene or situation, the plot shifted suddenly to a completely different time or set of characters, before I felt the scene had been fully fleshed out. This element of jumpiness and the emphasis on torture caused me to rate the work as 3 stars rather than 4, meaning I recommend it but cannot go so far as to classify it as a work at the very highest level.
Nevertheless, this book is a strong entry in contemporary action fiction. It is a well-written, fast-paced, and strongly plotted work with a unique perspective. The prominence of torture detracted from my connection with the book, but not so much that I would hesitate to recommend it.”