I have to admit, Portrait of a Spy confused me. The opening sequence where Israeli spy Gabriel Allon was relaxing on the Cornwall coast in Southwest England was similar enough to the opening of The Rembrandt Affair, I thought I was re-reading Daniel Silva’s last novel. Once I realized it was indeed the new novel, I settled down for what is always an enjoyable Silva spy novel. In Portrait of a Spy, Europe is hit by suicide bombers and retired Mossad agent Allon once again becomes involved in the hunt for the terrorists. Silva portrays the CIA as a once-strong but now ineffective agency where things are so bad, one of its directors, Adrian Carter, must to personally finance his legal defense against a justice department investigation into actions during the war on terror. Carter must also rely on Allon and his elite Mossad team to determine who in fact is the mastermind behind the bombings. Allon, of course, has previously crossed paths with the leader of the terrorist group, and he recruits an unlikely ally in the operation. Not much can be said without spoiling things, other than when I finished the book, I felt much the same as I did after watching the movie Evita, starring Madonna. An unexpected emotion following another great Silva spy thriller.
Archive for category Daniel Silva
In my review of Daniel Silva‘s last novel, The Defector, I suggested that both Silva and his lead character, Gabriel Allon, take a break. Silva listened to my suggestion — sort of. When the Rembrandt Affair opens, we find Allon in the middle of long rest and relaxation period in a remote coastal town in Cornwall, UK. He passes the day with long walks along the cliffs of the Celtic Sea. One day an old friend, art dealer Julian Isherwood, asks Allon for a small favor — to track down a stolen Rembrandt. I’m sure the same thing passes through Allon’s mind as it does mine: An investigation into a stolen painting probably means a break from your standard espionage adventure. We were both wrong. Allon’s investigation leads to a Nazi sub-plot, which then leads to a beloved German businessman known for his philanthropy who happens to be involved in selling nukes to the bad guys. Naturally, Allon’s Mossad team and espionage leaders from the Israeli, U.S. and U.K. government enter the fray as another mission unfolds. I have to admit that Silva surprised me in the first part of the book and hooked me in the second part. And I’m proud to report that the spymaster supreme is back — and so is the supreme spy he so wonderfully writes about.
In my review of Daniel Silva‘s last book, Moscow Rules, I was happy about the return of the Russians. Russians, as in Russian spies, which are the staple of traditional espionage fare. Well, the Russians return once again in The Defector and this time around, I’m not so sure. The Defector picks up where Moscow Rules left off as ex-KGB and current gun runner Ivan Kharkov goes after the man who took his money and broke up his family in the previous novel. That man, of course, is Gabriel Allon, the Mossad agent/artist making his ninth appearance for Silva. In true espionage fashion, Kharkov seeks revenge against Allon and we visit many countries, including Mother Russia. Like the characters, I’m not sure about returning there so quickly. Why the apprehension? Well, it’s not that the book is bad, because it is not. In fact, it’s a pretty good book that reads very quickly. It just feels forced to me. As is usually the case, the book starts with Allon working on an art restoration project. Those scenes seem rushed. Silva does meticulous research for his books and there is always a lesson in history, politics and even religion. However, in this case, the main Russian history lesson seems to be crammed into one of the final scenes. And speaking of final scenes, the epilogue covers a summer of covert action in a matter of pages. In the acknowledgments, Silva thanks his children for helping him make his deadline. I’m guessing that wasn’t any easy task. Meanwhile, it looks like Allon’s clandestine duties may be coming to an end, although I don’t really believe it nor does he. (It’s pointed out to Allon that his first assignment in 1972 had 11 targets as did all two pages of his final assignment in the epilogue.) One wonders if Silva will also take a break when it comes to the Allon series. Let’s face it, both have done great work and have earned a well-deserved vacation. I think it would be best served if they both took some time off from each other and then returned nice and refreshed.
Maybe I’m an espionage snob, but the genre just hasn’t been the same since the end of the Cold War. Thankfully, that is about to change. Israeli spy/artist Gabriel Allon returns in Moscow Rules and as the title suggests, the book features Russians — both good and bad — and boy am I happy. I don’t know what it is, but the perfect spy book just has to include the Russians. In Moscow Rules, not only do we have the traditional Russian bad guy, but we also have the new breed of ultra rich Russians who vacation in the French Riviera and the Swiss Alps and are lividly hated by the locals. We know about the Russian mafia, but the protagonist in this book is a KGB agent turned gun runner who is about to sell some nasty weapons to terrorists. And it’s up to Allon to thwart the plot. As always, the plot revolves around Allon’s uniquely gifted talents as an artist, and it also features several Mossad agents who have been with Allon since he hunted down and assassinated the terrorists responsible for the death of several Israeli Olympians in Munich in the early 1970s. Other cameos from previous books include some colorful British art collectors, as well as fellow spies from the U.S., Great Britain and France. As I mentioned in my review of The Secret Servent, Daniel Silva is the best in the business right now. And the return of the Russians puts Moscow Rules atop Silva’s list of wonderful novels.
As someone who grew up reading – and idolizing – the outstanding espionage writer Frederick Forsyth, I never thought there would come a day when I had a new favorite. But as Forsyth has aged and understandably slowed down in his writing, I now look to Daniel Silva for my fix when it comes to spy novels. And does he ever deliver. The Secret Servant is the seventh book in the series featuring Israeli spy Gabriel Allon. And like all of Silva’s works, this is one damn good read. In the recommendation on the front of the book, USA TODAY compares Allon to Jack Bauer. I completely disagree. The thing that sets Allon apart from traditional spies like Bauer or Jack Ryan or even James Bond is his intellect, not to mention his spectacular cover story, which isn’t really a cover. Allon is a world renowned artist who specializes in the restoration of masterpieces. Unfortunately for Allon, he also happens to be a world class spy who keeps getting called back into service for his country. In The Secret Servant, Allon is sent to Europe for some routine clean-up work and he quickly becomes involved in a kidnapping/terrorist plot which takes him to Amsterdam, London, Cairo and Copenhagen. Like every Silva novel, the story moves quickly and features meticulous research on both the political and religious ideals of the story’s main characters. In the end, Allon’s identity is no longer a secret, something that sadly hinders both of his jobs, but he will no doubt return to both worlds in future novels. (Follow The Secret Servant on Google Maps)