Beirut Station: Two Lives of a Spy

Paul Vidich

Pegasus Crime 2023


Reviewing Paul Vidich’s spy novel, “Beirut Station,” as the latest war between Israel and Hamas unfolds, was challenging, because of the juxtaposition of the story plot and our current new reality. His new novel, released in 2023, takes place in 2006, during the Israel and Hezbollah war.

The protagonist, Analise Assad, a Lebanese-American CIA agent who has worked for two years in the Middle East fighting terrorists, is assigned to work with Mossad, which then, as now, is Israel’s spy agency. Their mission is to assassinate Najab Qassem, a known terrorist.

The story begins with CIA and Mossad personnel in a van armed with a drone and targeted to destroy Qassem’s vehicle. Suddenly, Analise demands the mission to be aborted: She sees a child’s arm hanging out the door window and has sighted two children inside the car.

The CIA Station Chief Rich Aldrich and Israel’s counterpart, “Gal”, argue. Gal angrily states, “To save two children we let our number one terrorist go?” Aldrich responds, “Better one hundred guilty go free than one innocent life is lost.” Their differences are clearly noted. Gal states there are different rules during a war against terrorists.

As a cover Analise works for the UN Commissioner for Refugees.  She also teaches English, a way to get close to Qassem’s grandchildren, while simultaneously learning about Qassem’s movements.

When Analise devises a new plan, Aldrich confides in her. He has learned the shell casing from bombs used to kill five “sympathetic Lebanese politicians” came from ammunition available only in the United States and which has been provided to Israel. Aldrich says Mossad “is taking out Hezbollah’s leadership,” along with sympathizers. “They want to destabilize the country.”

Tension builds in the novel as Aldrich fears for his life, while Analise suspects Mossad agents are spying on her. And then her assignment to kill Qassem becomes more critical when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice heads to Beirut to negotiate a ceasefire. Analise doesn’t know who to trust and fears a journalist with whom she is having an affair might even be spying on her.

The release of Vidich’s new suspenseful novel, amid the new Middle East conflict, offers twists on critical questions we face today: Who is safe, and who can be held responsible? Aldrich tells Analise that at the end of the day what they do as spies is simply called “murder.” It’s a thought worth pondering as we question the limits, and morality, of war.