Posts Tagged Geneva

Daniel Silva 13: The Rembrandt Affair

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.

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Charles McCarry 1: The Miernik Dossier

The Miernik Dossier is what its name suggests: A dossier from the early 1960s that you’d likely find in a folder in a filling cabinet in the basement of one of the intelligence services. A compilation of reports is definitely a unique way to tell a spy story, and if you like the early Cold War classics of Frederick Forsyth or John Le Carre, this book is for you. And if you enjoy the political overtones in early James Bond movies such as From Russia With Love, you’ll get a kick out of this book. The subject of the dossier is Tadeusz Miernik, an outspoken and often-animated Pole who works for the World Research Organization, a NATO agency based in Geneva. We learn the WRO provides perfect cover for spies from various NATO countries and the dossier contains information and theories from all the various intelligence agencies watching Miernik, as well as passages from Miernik’s diary. The premise of the book is simple: Is Miernik a spy? This basic question works, of course, since in the world of espionage, nothing is black and white, while everything is a different shade of gray. As we ponder the question, we follow Miernik and several WRO colleagues as they take a Cadillac on a road trip from Geneva to Sudan via Vienna and Egypt. One of the passengers is Paul Christopher, an American spy who is the main character in future books. Christopher seems torn as to whether or not Miernik is a spy and I, too, wavered over that question. In a nutshell, that’s the extent of the book, although it is more interesting than it may sound. For a first novel, Charles McCarry — a former intelligence officer himself — delivers on a subject he knows very well, although I was kind of surprised there wasn’t more of a twist at the end like your typical spy story. In fact, there wasn’t a twist at all and maybe that was by design since in the world of espionage, one is taught to expect the unexpected.

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