Maddy's Reviews > The Prince of Bagram Prison: A Novel

The Prince of Bagram Prison by Alex Carr
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's review
May 22, 10

bookshelves: 2008-reads
Read in April, 2008

PROTAGONIST: Kat Caldwell; Army Ready Reserve
SETTING: Madrid; Afghanistan
SERIES: Standalone
RATING: 2.75

At one time, Kat Caldwell, a member of the Army Ready Reserve and a skilled speaker of Arabic, was assigned to interrogate a boy named Jamal who was housed in Bagram Prison in Afghanistan. Jamal has managed to survive by his wits for his first 15 years. After having spent years in an unsavory orphanage in Casablanca, he is wise beyond his years. Escaping from the prison, he has managed to make his way to Madrid, where he is serving as an informer for the CIA. Sensing danger in his latest assignment, he flees. Because Jamal trusted Kat, she is recruited to try to find him. At the same time, Jamal has reached out to his former CIA handler, Harry Comfort, who joins in the search.

What Kat finds as she begins the quest is that there is some kind of cover-up going on, one that may involve torture and other unsavory acts. She soon fears for their lives, with danger coming from within her own organization. At the same time, she is appalled by what she discovers about Jamal's past life, the degrading conditions in which he lived and the unspeakable acts he was made to perform. Kat has to make some hard choices along the way, choices that may mean that she can never return to her former life.

At least I think that's what happened. I found it almost impossible to follow what was going on in this book, which was very frustrating. The chapters alternated between different characters, different settings and different time periods. There was rarely a time when there was a straightforward linear narrative flow where you would follow a plot thread for more than a short period. I was completely and thoroughly confused throughout most of the book. In addition to the main narrative line, there are subplots galore detailing the intricacies of various love affairs, betrayed friendships, political malfeasance and more.

Carr writes wonderful prose, which helped make up somewhat for the structural deficiencies of the book. In addition, she did an excellent job in revealing disperse geographic and cultural settings. It's too bad that the tangled labyrinth of the narrative overrode the positive characteristics of this book.
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