CIA operative Howard Egan arrives at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi under an assumed name and a fake passport. He has a meeting with Hamid Akbar, a Pakistani banker, whose uncle is an important leader of one of the Darwesh Khel clans. Egan calls Akbar to confirm their appointment, but something in Akbar’s voice disturbs him; he sounds nervous, flustered. Concerned that his cover has been blown and that he is being followed, Egan nevertheless keeps the appointment. He never arrives. His disappearance triggers a series of panicked responses from both the CIA and the ISI, highlighting the uneasy alliance between the two agencies and threatening to expose a complicated off-the-books operation that is known to only a handful of individuals.
Drawing heavily on his own reporting from the Middle East, Asia, and Europe, including recent trips to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, Ignatius describes the brains behind some of the world's most elaborate, high-tech anti-terror programs, and explores what happens when those programs, and the individuals who implement them, are forced to reckon with cultures that place a different value on life and the traditions of hospitality.
Sophie Marx, a young CIA officer hungry to get out of the office and back in the field, is the newest recruit of The Hit Parade, a firm that sells international music and television rights. Secretly, it's the cover company for a financially self-sustaining branch of the CIA that is running off-the-books operations with money filtered through a hedge fund based in London, allowing the U.S. government complete deniability in the event of a problem. As it turns out, Howard Egan's disappearance is just the tip of the iceberg, and The Hit Parade and its ruthless leader Jeff Gertz are about to encounter precisely the sort of problem that will test the secrecy and security of their set up.
As the group's counter-intelligence chief, Sophie Marx is put in charge of an internal investigation into Egan's disappearance, one that leads her to a Pakistan where the tribal code still rules the land. But, things aren’t as straightforward as they appear. Gertz plays the system like a three-dimensional chess board, and tries to use both Marx and Cyril Hoffman, his CIA mentor, as expendable pawns. In order to learn the truth, Marx must discover who is playing what side, and how the CIA’s own destructive actions breed terror. Her global hunt ends with an astonishing twist and a grim lesson: there is no truly effective system for fighting a war without end. Exhaustion, disillusionment, and a longing to return to a 'normal order' are the most that can be expected. Conflicts are resolved now, as ever, with payments of 'blood money'.
Bloodmoney is a fresh look at themes that David Ignatius explored in his last two novels, which were set largely in Iraq and Iran. Echoing today's headlines, and the concerns of many who shape foreign policy, Ignatius has shifted his setting to Pakistan, and focuses on America's uneasy but essential alliance with Pakistan's government and military. We learn from the novel's characters that it is nearly impossible to reconcile the domestic and foreign agendas of two countries that are so different.
Bloodmoney imagines a new CIA capability—funded off the books and without the usual oversight—as the agency struggles to deal with an adversary that can’t be stopped by conventional methods. In this theme, as in so much of his fiction, Ignatius imagines covert techniques that may be utilized in the real world. He sketches a self-financing scheme for funding CIA operations, drawing on the resources of a freewheeling hedge fund that can trade on the CIA’s secret information. Ignatius imagines, too, a world in which the terrorists turn the money-tracking weapons used by U.S. intelligence back against the CIA—with devastating impact. As always in Ignatius’s novels, part of the puzzle is to guess where fact ends and fiction begins.