The Secret Servant by Daniel Silva begins with a dead Jewish scholar, as Gabriel Allon books often do. Professor Solomon Rosner is “the first asset in the annals of Office history to have proven more useful to them dead than alive.” He is killed in Amsterdam in a normally a peaceful neighborhood. Rosner runs the Center for European Security Studies. “[T]he center had managed to produce a steady stream of authoritative reports and articles detailing the threat posed to the Netherlands by the rise of militant Islam within its borders.” Rosner had a lot of enemies both Islamic and Dutch. He is killed on the way to lunch by one of the painters who has been working across the street from his office. Obviously painting is not the man’s only job.
Gabriel Allon flies into Tel Aviv and is met by Uzi Navot. Once a katsaor western European undercover case officer, Uzi is now Chief of Special Ops. He had done jobs no one else wanted to do, executioner, kidnapper, bugger, blackmailer. Uzi is a bit bitter about Gabriel’s star status. Uzi to Gabriel: “Art restoration was your cover job, Gabriel. You are not an art restorer. You are a secret servant of the state of Israel and You have no right to leave the fighting to others.”
Shamron reveals that Rosner also worked for the Office. Rosner was to keep eyes and ears on Islamic extremism to give some early warning of possible terrorist targets. Rosen helped them stop and assassinate the members of an al-Qaeda affiliated “cell operating in West Amsterdam [when they] got their hands on a missile and were planning to shoot down an El Al jetliner.”
The painter who killed Rosen was named Mohammed Hamza and there was a videotape found in his apartment. Gabriel is to go get all of Rosen’s files which ends up being about 500,000 documents. Rosen started out as a sayan. “[S]ayanimare a worldwide network of volunteer Jewish helpers, Bankers are used to provide cash for Office agents, doctors treated them in secret, hoteliers gave rooms under false names, rental car employees gave them untraceable vehicles. Then Shamron recruited him.
Gabriel is given an assistant, Eli Lavon. He is described as small and bookish, with wispy unkempt hair and quick brown eyes – As usual he seems to be wearing all his clothes at once. And he is “the finest street surveillance artist the Office has ever produced.” He is an archeologist by training and has also been an ayinor tracker.
Gabriel and Eli Lavon meet Sophie Vanderhaus, Prof. Rosner’s assistant at the same café where Rosner was killed. At the end of a long day going over files Gabriel goes out for Thai food – and never comes back. Someone, an old Arabic man wearing keffiyeh and kufi, follows Gabriel and, after Gabriel almost kills him, the man says he has come to help them. He worked with Rosen. He is Ibrahim Fawaz.
Ibrahim tells Gabriel that, “Takfir was a concept developed by Islamists in Egypt in the nineteen seventies, a theological sleight of hand designed to give the terrorists a sacred license to kill almost anyone they pleased in order to achieve their goals of imposing sharia and restoring the Caliphate. To the Takfiri, democracy was a heresy, for it supplanted the laws of God with the laws of men.” “Muslim citizens of a democracy were apostates and could be put to the sword.
Fawaz also tells Gabriel about Samir al-Masri who is a dangerous man, and that Samir and four other young men have disappeared from Amsterdam. They go to search his room. In Samir’s room they find photos of Samir in Trafalgar Square, Samir with a member of the Queen’s Life Guard outside Buckingham Palace, Samir riding the Millenium wheel, Samir at the House of Parliament and the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square. Guess who’s going to London now?
As they part ways Eli says, “And so here we are again two nice Jewish boys, sitting on a European street corner at three o’clock in the morning. My God when will it end.” “It’s never going to end, Eli. This is forever.”
It can take a lot of build-up to get to the heart of the action in Silva’s popular spy thrillers. Back stories are long. Some readers run out of patience. But we are there now.
Gabriel is not exactly warmly welcomed in London and his cohorts there do not take the threat very seriously because they have been through so much. Gabriel narrows down the threat to Hyde Park and the American Embassy.
Robert Halton, the ambassador, waves his daughter, Elizabeth Halton, MD goodbye, not without trepidation, as she leaves for a run in the park. She is kidnapped in broad daylight by men dressed all in black and driving a park maintenance truck. Gabriel’s warning came too late, but he is in time to see the attack and shoot some kidnappers. Still, Elizabeth is gone.
Now Adrian Carter from the CIA, who is always a good partner joins the hunt since the American ambassador’s daughter is involved.
Who took her? What do they want? Will Gabriel get her back alive? What injuries will he sustain this time? Who is the mastermind of this plot.? How is Egypt involved? Who are the Swords of Allah? Who gets married?
Find me on Goodreads as Nancy Brisson.