Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

The Finish

The Killing of Osama bin Laden

by Mark Bowden

In his most important and commercial book since Black Hawk Down, Mark Bowden chronicles the killing of the most hated figure of the twenty-first century.

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 288
  • Publication Date June 11, 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2152-3
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $17.00

About The Book

“There wasn’t a meeting when someone didn’t mention Black Hawk Down.” —A senior Obama administration official, as quoted in The New York Times, 5.2.2011

From Mark Bowden, the preeminent chronicler of our military and special forces, comes The Finish, a gripping account of the hunt for Osama bin Laden. With access to key sources, Bowden takes us inside the rooms where decisions were made and on the ground where the action unfolded.

After masterminding the attacks of September 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden managed to vanish. Over the next ten years, as Bowden shows, America found that its war with al Qaeda—a scattered group of individuals who were almost impossible to track—demanded an innovative approach. Step by step, Bowden describes the development of a new tactical strategy to fight this war—the fusion of intel from various agencies and on-the-ground special ops. After thousands of special forces missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the right weapon to go after bin Laden had finally evolved. By Spring 2011, intelligence pointed to a compound in Abbottabad; it was estimated that there was a 50/50 chance that Osama was there. Bowden shows how three strategies were mooted: a drone strike, a precision bombing, or an assault by Navy SEALs. In the end, the President had to make the final decision. It was time for the finish.


“In-depth interviews with Obama and other insiders reveal a White House on edge, facing top-secret options, white-knuckle decisions, and unforeseen obstacles. . . . Bowden weaves together accounts from Obama and top decision-makers for the full story behind the daring operation.” —Vanity Fair

“A book—one with sweep and sophistication—about a pivotal, secretive operation . . . smart and measured, long on transparency and short on speculation. . . . Bowden enjoyed exceptional access, but wasn’t captured by it. . . . Bowden’s lens is wide, encompassing Obama’s evolution as a politician and the peculiar influence of bin Laden . . . Where the book shines is in Bowden’s reconstruction and refined analysis of the intelligence operations that turned up bin Laden’s location. . . . The book also succeeds in its artful portrait of Obama as commander in chief. . . . compelling drama, and Bowden has captured it with skill and style.” —Ken Armstrong, The Seattle Times

“How all the president’s men and women finally nabbed the world’s most wanted terrorist is truly a stunning story. And while parts of it have been told, Barack Obama himself has confided in only one writer about all the details. And he is Mark Bowden.” —Christine Amanpour, CNN

“A superb storyteller, Bowden captures the tense drama accompanying the final months of the bin Laden hunt, even as he underscores the quiet, essential work of years.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Bowden’s new book outlines the changes in warfare since the Sept. 11, 2011, terrorist attacks, and the way our increasing computational power has helped capture terrorists like Osama bin Laden.” —NPR

“The death of the man responsible for the 9/11 attacks is a fantastic story. It has goodies and baddies, a long, slow build to the climax, exotic locations and lots of hardware. . . . Bowden [shows] how success in the raid last May was the culmination not just of a decade of often tedious data-crunching by the CIA and other analysts, but of a vast and ongoing effort within the American security establishment and government to develop a new range of capabilities. . . . How the Americans finally got their man is an extraordinary tale and Bowden does it justice.” —Jason Burke, The Guardian

“[A] dramatic narrative . . . the actual champion of the bin Laden hunt is a collective of mostly nameless hands within the intelligence bureaucracy. . . The Finish is at its best when Mr. Bowden goes deep into mission planning, gameboarding the choice of means of attack—air strike? sniper drone? ground-force raid?” —James D. Hornfischer, Wall Street Journal

“A page-turner . . . an informative, on-the-ground account of the mission. Adept at maintaining suspense even when the outcome is widely known, Bowden also makes judicious assessments of how much credit Obama deserves—and the impact of the assassination on al Qaeda.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“The most accessible and satisfying book yet written on the climactic event in the United States’ long war against al Qaeda.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“To chart the tale of the hunt for the world’s most notorious terrorist [bin Laden], Bowden assembled an extensive history of the modern warfare and intelligence tactics that led to the rare, execution and deep-sea burial.” —Randy LoBasso, Philadelphia Weekly

“In The Finish, Mark Bowden does a good job of piecing together this Washington drama. . . . The strength of Bowden’s book, though, is that he got Obama to talk, which adds rich detail.” —The Sunday Times

“Bowden . . . offers new insights from the first-person perspective of the officer who commanded [the raid] on the ground.” —The Telegraph

“The first book, and, to date, the definitive one, that looks at the Osama bin Laden raid from President Obama’s perspective.” —Doug Stanton, The Daily Beast

“Bowden tells the story of the CIA’s two-decade hunt for bin Laden . . . with a veteran journalist’s ability to organize loads of factual information into a propulsive narrative. The Finish is a masterful piece of long-form journalism and, for the military buffs . . . a refreshingly mature rejoinder to the dumb, jingoistic Navy SEAL fever that’s been ebbing and flowing since bin Laden’s violent death. . . . If you were one of the many who picked up a newspaper on May 1, 2011 to find out we’d finally, and somewhat unbelievably, taken down our main target, and if you felt a subsequent surge of national pride that day, then The Finish will pretty much be the book for you.” —Alex Peterson, Spectrum Culture

“Bowden, a journalist and author of the 1999 prize winner Black Hawk Down, benefited from exclusive access to President Barack Obama to tell this story . . . it is interesting to learn about the president’s deliberations that led to his decision to go ahead with the raid.” —Matthew E. Havens, Winnipeg Free Press

The Finish leverages access to key White House, military, intelligence, and foreign-policy officials—including President Obama himself—to get behind the intricate story of how SEAL Team Six was sent to Abbottabad, Pakistan, to kill Osama bin Laden. . . . Bowden reviews the evolutionary progress made in intelligence processing and military capabilities that led to the raid on Abbottabad. . . . close to a textbook example of complex national security decision-making.” —John A. Gans, Jr., The Atlantic

The Finish seems ripe for cinematic adaptation.” —Kat Stoeffe, The New York Observer

“Bowden would seem like the perfect person to tell the bin Laden story. . . . There is an excellent setting-the-record-straight section at the end that has been missing in other volumes.” —Dina Temple-Raston, Washington Post

“Bowden’s book draws back to look at the raid in strategic context. I suspect that readers who choose Bowden’s wide-angle approach will find themselves better informed.” —Harry Levins, St. Louis Today

“Mr. Bowden . . . uses his hard-earned access to focus on the decade of intelligence-gathering and decision-making that led up to the Abbottabad raid.” —Stewart Bell, National Post (Canada)

The Finish paints the U.S. government’s relationship to technology and social media as integral in the capture of bin Laden. . . . Many see Bowden as one of the most respected writers covering the U.S. military and Special Forces today.” —Cole Garner Hill, Books & Review

“Bowden . . . reveals the details of the planning, but knows when to pull back from a close focus to give the wider view of what was at stake for President Obama, military planners and the Navy SEALS team. . . . [His] experience as a reporter and author shows.” —Meredith Jacobs, Fayetteville Observer


Summer Reading Pick, On Point w/ Tom Ashbrook (WBUR)