The Secret Servant by Daniel Silva – Book

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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.

Prince of Fire by Daniel Silva – Book

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Most books in the Gabriel Allon series begin with violence; a murder or perhaps a bombing where someone who is Jewish or Israeli is targeted. In book five, Prince of Fireby Daniel Silva the catalyst to Gabriel’s newest investigation involves both. There is a bombing at the Israeli Embassy in Rome and then four terrorists arrive and target anyone who might have survived with automatic assault rifles. Both ambassadors who are present die.

Gabriel is an art restorer of some genius. He would be happy to do this full time, but he has also been trained as a skilled spy and assassin for the Israeli Secret Service. Shamron, his mentor, an irascible old survivor of the Palmach in the War of Independence in Israel, keeps suddenly appearing in Gabriel’s peaceful life in Europe, where the great cathedrals and paintings live. Suddenly Gabriel will get a whiff of a smelly Turkish cigarette and know his peace will be disturbed because someone else’s peace has been shattered.

A mysterious man rents a villa in Bracciano, Italy, a Monsieur Jean-Luc. He arrives in January and vanishes in late February. The owner of the villa remembers that he spoke French with an upper-class accent.

Near the Borghese Gardens in Rome with its “elegant boulevards and quiet leafy streets, on a cul de sac sits the Israeli Embassy in Rome.

“Survivors and witnesses would recall the perfection of that late-winter morning: bright and clear, cold enough in the shadows to bring on a shiver, warm enough in the sun to unbutton a wool coat and dream of an al fresco lunch”

This stellar late-winter day is disturbed by first the aforementioned truck bomb and then by the four men with automatic rifles who jump from a car to shoot any survivors.

Once the Intelligence service on King Saul Boulevard in Tel Aviv collects itself, the Roman katsa (Hebrew for a undercover foreign office manager) Shimon Pazner is located and the terrorists movements are traced. Forty-eight hours later investigators find a hurriedly abandoned room pointed out by a Tunisian informant. After a thorough search the investigators find a computer disc sewn into the lining of one piece of the abandoned luggage. Shimon takes the computer disc to Tel Aviv because they have had reason to develop excellent skills for decoding encrypted information.

What they find sends them off looking for Gabriel who happens to be away from the Bellini painting he was restoring in Venice. He is in London to see an old and useful friend, Julian Isherwood, an art dealer and friend of the Israeli Secret Service, and to visit his wife who had been badly burned and emotionally damaged in a car bomb incident in Vienna. Gabriel and Leah’s son was killed. Now Leah goes through her days in silence and seems unable to remember Gabriel.

“Leah had been punished for his sins. Leah was the price a decent man paid for climbing into the sewer with murderers and terrorists.”

Gabriel is at the sanitorium to let Leah know that he intends to marry Chiara who lives with him in Venice and also works for the Office on King Saul Boulevard, but he finds he cannot say the words to her.

Shamron finds Gabriel at last when Gabriel returns to Venice and Chiara and the Bellini. Shamron reveals that the computer disc they decoded contained a detailed dossier of Gabriel’s assassination activities for the Office. Fingerprints identified the holder of the dossier as Daoud Hadawi, a Palestinian refugee. The same computer disc also contained photos and security analyses for targets in Europe. Gabriel could not say no to Shamron. Chiara is coming too.

Gabriel is given an office in Room 456C at King Saul Boulevard and this time he has a team. Chiara is bat leveyha, Hebrew for a girl escort officer. Yossi comes from Research, Dina, from History, Yaakov from Arab Affairs is a shabak, a body guard, Rimona is from Military Intelligence and is Shamron’s niece. Using what they know, the name and national origin of Daoud Hadawi, they begin their investigation, which also seems to have a connection to Yasir Arafat, by interviewing all of their Arab informants.

“Gabriel began each day by posing the same series of questions. Who built the bomb? Who conceived and planned the attack? Who directed the teams? Who secured the safe houses and the transport? Who handled the money: Who was the mastermind? Was there a state sponsor in Damascus or Tehran or Tripoli?”

And who is Khaled al-Khalifa. “Khaled is a rumor. Khaled is a ghost story. He is the thing that is missing.”

The investigation will lead far and wide. How many times will Gabriel be wounded in the search for Khaled al-Kalifa? Who else will die? Will Gabriel ever get to finish working on the Bellini in Venice? Will he ever tell Leah about Chiara? So many questions I can’t answer because that would ruin this excellent spy story.

Photo credit: From a Google Image Search – You Tube

A Death in Vienna by Daniel Silva – Book

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Three of the books I have read in the Gabriel Allon series, Daniel Silva tells us in the end notes of A Death in Vienna, are thematically related. They each are “dealing with the unfinished business of the Holocaust.” In The English AssassinSilva looks at “art looting” and the “collaboration of Swiss banks”. In The Confessorhe looks at the “role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and the silence of Pope Pius XII. In A Death in Viennahe looks into Aktion 1005 which was “the real code name of the Nazi program to conceal and destroy the remains of millions of Jewish dead” and the activities of Bishop Aloïs Hudal “rector of the Pontificio Santa Maria dell’Anima, who helped hundreds of Nazi war criminals flee Europe.” He tells us that the Vatican still maintains the Bishop acted without the knowledge of the pope. It is unusual for a thriller to have an Israeli subtext, and it takes skill on the part of the author to expose real wrongs while his novel still unfolds as an exciting puzzle for a spy, or spy organization, to solve.

This tale begins with a bomb at the Wartime Claims and Inquiry Office. Eli Lavon, who runs this office is critically injured. His employees, Reveka and Sarah are killed. Eli Lavon is an Israeli but he has a closer connection to the Israeli Secret Service known as the Office. In the early 70’s he worked for them and the skills he possesses are legendary. Gabriel, art restorer and Israeli spy, leaves another Bellini in another Venetian Cathedral to find out why the Wartime Claims and Inquiry Office was bombed and why his friend Eli Lavon is lying unconscious in a hospital in Vienna.

Clues lead Allon to a Nazi hiding under a new name in Vienna. At least he seems to be this certain Nazi, but research is necessary to confirm it, even involving travel to South America. This hidden Nazi basically worked for the Germans as an eraser. Mass graves full of dead bodies were beginning to show signs of what had been hidden under too little earth. It was this man’s job to uncover these putrefying mass graves full of Jewish people who had been gassed or executed and to sanitize them by burning the remains and scattering the ashes. Of course this would also erase any evidence of what the German’s had been doing. This particular Nazi had value because he had devised a way to make a fire that was hot enough to do the sad job. He used Jewish prisoners to do the macabre work and the ashes and bones were moved to local rivers and streams. He never got to erase all of the evidence because the German’s ran out of time and lost the war.

This eraser man, like many Nazi’s saw himself as culturally sensitive because he loved great art and music. Since he did not actually get his hands dirty he apparently did not feel that the inhumanity of what he did compromised his elitism. He accompanied Gabriel’s mother on the Death March out of the “camps”. He killed survivors on the way out if they gave the wrong answer to the question “What will you tell the world and your children?” He once spent on day on a railroad platform forcing a Jewish man to play a classical piece of music over and over again. This Nazi on the rise asked arriving prisoners if they knew the name of the music. If they didn’t know he shot them.

Does such a man deserve to be stalked and taken off to prison in Israel? Almost any human being would say yes. But for Gabriel this one is very personal.

The Confessor by Daniel Silva – Book

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Not my favorite book of the Gabriel Allon series, The Confessor  by Daniel Silva should not be skipped if you want to do justice to the chronology. In Munich a Jewish professor and scholar, Benjamin Stern, is murdered and the manuscript he is working on is stolen. In Rome a Pope is elected who is not well loved by some of the Cardinals. He chooses the name, Paul VII. What is the connection between a Jewish professor/doctor and the Vatican in Rome? That is the business of this Silva thriller.

The Catholic Church is full of power politics and holds both traditionalists and reformers. We learned this in real life when Pope Francis was chosen, and the tug of war keeps emerging from time to time in the news. Wherever power is possible people will conspire to attain it. Investigation exposes a secret conservative cabal within the Catholic Church called Crux Veraand we get whiff of possible scandal, that the Roman Catholic Church (some of it) has things to hide, things left over from WWII that link the church to the Nazi’s and also to the Jews. Whatever happened could be so harmful to the image of the church that there are those who will kill to keep it a secret. Gabriel has a friend in the Vatican though, the Pope’s right hand man and bodyguard, Father Donati.

Gabriel, an Israeli man, not religious but definitely Jewish in his soul, is often to be found restoring religious art painted by now famous artists whose work adorns cathedrals all over Europe. Currently he is restoring a Bellini painting in Venice. He has many aliases but is known in the art world as Mario Delvecchio. With the death of Dr. Stern he will put down his paint brush and pick up his gun because his mentor, Shamron, the tough old Israeli is almost impossible to say no to. Here is one reason to read this book – you learn more of Shamron’s past.

We also learn more of Gabriel’s back story. We learn that an aleph in the Israeli Secret Service is an assassin. Gabriel is an aleph. Gabriel also meets the Rabbi’s lovely daughter Chiara, who becomes important to Gabriel and in this series of books.

Once Gabriel begins to follow the trail backwards from Dr. Stern’s murder it becomes clear that wherever Gabriel goes he is clearly being watched. That is how he knows that his investigations are poking the hornet’s nest hidden in the Catholic Church. Crux Verahas their own assassin, The Leopard. Guess what his assignment is? As I said, The Confessor is not my favorite, and it may not please Roman Catholic readers, but it gives you key information to put future sagas in context. And it is still a thriller of that cerebral variety that keeps readers returning to Silva’s novels.

The English Assassin by Daniel Silva – Book

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I have just finished reading the second book in the Gabriel Allon series, The English Assassin by Daniel Silva. One of the things that separates the Gabriel Allon series from other spy thrillers is that Gabriel works for Israeli intelligence. He is often considered such a good spy because he can kill without getting too emotional about it. In fact, critics say he may not have blood in his veins, which, I guess, is a way to say he is too robotic, or workmanlike. In the spy thrillers I have read, the best agents are not necessarily warm, cuddly individuals. Gabriel actually seems, to me, a bit more human than some agents who use a more military model. But he is a loner, and does not ever put together a permanent team. He actually has an adversarial relationship with many of the other members of the Office. Gabriel doesn’t create an ersatz family, unless a bunch of old curmudgeons qualify.

Another thing that separates the Allon series from other thrillers is Allon’s talent as an art restorer. Gabriel always says that he would like to restore art and not be a killer of bad guys. He blames the man who turned him into his protégé in the spy trade – Ari Shamron who runs the Office on King Saul Boulevard in Tel Aviv. Gabriel has some affection and plenty of hostility for Shamron. Shamron changed the path of Gabriel’s life, made him a spy instead of a painter. Gabriel always fools himself into believing that each case is his last. However, his conscience convinces him to take on project after project. But even more often Shamron convinces (bribes) him to take a case. In the case of Augustus Rolfe, Anna Rolfe, and the missing Impressionist paintings, Shamron gets Gabriel to investigate the matter using false pretenses.

We are made aware of the role bankers in Switzerland played in a war where they allegedly remained neutral. Because they were the world’s bankers, with accounts guaranteed as secret, they accepted money, art, jewels, gold, and anything valuable from German leaders who were members of the Nazi government – Jewish valuables stolen from citizens they knew they intended to gas. When the Nazi’s lost the war, the Swiss did not give the valuables back because the transactions were still supposedly protected by privacy laws. But the banks, Silva contends, often came to believe that these spoils of genocide and war were theirs. When one such Swiss banker, Augustus Rolfe, the very one Shamron sent Gabriel to meet, is found dead, Gabriel is arrested and thrown into a cell in Zurich even though logistically he could not be the murderer. Shamron hears of this and gets him out. He sends Gabriel off to meet Anna Rolfe, a famous violinist, whose father is the dead banker. Through Anna, Allon finds out about the large and illegal collection of Impressionist paintings owned by her father. Anna needs to be protected. After all, her father was murdered in his own salon. The paintings must be found. A secret group in Switzerland (the Council of Rütli) exists solely to make sure these paintings are not found.

A second assassin, one who trained under Gabriel for a while, is killing anyone connected with this painting chase. Christopher Keller, who most people think died in the SAS, is very much alive, living on Corsica and killing whoever the Orsati family wants him too. (The Orsatis do believe in justice but this time they are on the wrong side. Keller switches side, and stops killing the good guys.) He decides he wants to kill the same awful men that Gabriel kills. This may explain how Gabriel gets out of the clutches of Otto Gessler alive so he can retire to Cornwall to recover from his injuries and restore works of art until Shamron intervenes once again.

The English Assassin has a fairly convoluted plot with lots of traveling involved. But there is satisfaction in the possibility that the recovered works of art will be returned to the original owners or their offspring, if anyone in the owner’s family is still alive. While this thriller is fictional, art stolen by Germans in WWII really has been found and returned when possible. This amazing story has been told again and again since some of the caches of paintings have been found, and it always feels like justice.

Whether there is really a shadowy group of Swiss bankers whose key goal is to keep the cruelly appropriated wealth stored in the vaults and cellars in their banks, or even in their houses, I do not know. It certainly fits with what we know of human greed.

 

Be sure to look for me on goodreads.com as Nancy Brisson.

The Kill Artist by Daniel Silva – Book

The Kill Artist by Daniel Silva- big OverDrive

I finally managed to find the first book in the Gabriel Allon series, only to find out that this book refers back to three prequels, including one about an operation to avenge the deaths at the Munich Olympics. These books are not in the Allon series but they offer explanations for the events in The Kill Artist which is considered the first book in the series. In 1996, Silva wrote The Unlikely Spy, in 1998 he wrote the Mark of the Assassin, and in 1999, The Marching Season.

The events that caused the death of Gabriel’s son and the maiming of his wife – events that haunt Gabriel’s dreams and inform his current activities, happened because Allon had killed two members of a family of Palestinian terrorists who killed Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. Tariq al-Hourani, Gabriel’s target in The Kill Artist, is the man who placed the bomb that blew up Gabriel’s family, as he watched helplessly. Tariq is also a Palestinian, related to the two terrorists killed for their murders in Munich, his car bombing an act of revenge.

(Many readers, sympathetic to the needs of Palestinians, find this plot line unpalatable. It is true that readers of thrillers don’t want to dwell on the Israeli-Palestinian divide. But after these early books, Silva is not always focused on righting wrongs (imagined or real) of Palestinian “terrorists” against Jews. If this was the axe that was ground by the author through every book, his work would not be so popular. Silva chooses to address diverse forms of the terror humans perpetrate against each other.)

Another interesting element to note in Silva’s books is his female characters. They are usually strong, beautiful, and driven by some injustice or injury in their past. Silva creates his spy, Gabriel, who trusts women to be as talented and ruthless as men, given the proper training, and using their existing motivations to exact justice. Although he sometimes sleeps with these talented beauties, they know he doesn’t love them and they know he will not let them be victimized if he can prevent it. These women bear no grudges against the handsome spy who has lost his family, although considering how almost every operation ends, they would, if they knew, probably be less inclined to cooperate.

Tariq al-Hourani is a brutal guy but he is dying. Gabriel uses a woman, born Jewish but raised by a French family; a woman whose parents were murdered by the Nazis at Sobibor. She is Sarah Halévy, but her French name is Jacqueline Delacroix. She has her own reasons to help Gabriel assassinate al-Hourani. Things, as usual, go terribly awry but Gabriel is the one who ends up with a bullet in his chest. This is not really a spoiler because we never wonder if Allon will be hurt, only how it will happen. Roaming around the best bits of Europe with Gabriel Allon is always a nerve-wracking adventure. But this book begins and ends in one of my favorite Gabriel locations, an isolated cottage in Cornwall, England.

Moscow Rules by Daniel Silva – Book

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In Moscow Rules by Daniel Silva, when a Russian journalist dies in the arms of Gabriel Allon, an Israeli operative, at the Basilica in Rome, Gabriel’s highest level friends in the Vatican are not thrilled. Gabriel had a meeting with this, now dead, reporter who had something to tell him. Gabriel is not thrilled either. He was on his honeymoon in Umbria and he does not want any part of this. But it’s a mystery that involves injustice, assassination, and perhaps more; clarion calls that Allon can never fail to answer. Gabriel immediately knows his honeymoon is over.

Ops inside Russia, especially in Moscow, are rarely undertaken by any nation’s spy agency, let alone the Israelis. Moscow plays by its own rules. What is supposed to be a quick in and out excursion, under a false identity, to talk with Olga Sukhova, another journalist, goes badly awry when Gabriel decides to outstay his team. Moscow rules say, “Assume every room is bugged and every telephone monitored. Assume every person you encounter is under opposition control. And don’t look back. You are never completely alone.” And yet he defies his boss and friend Ari Shamron and stays. Guess how that turns out.

In these days when we talk about Russia every day, the information the author gives us about Russia is very familiar to us. Olga tells Gabriel, “To understand Russia today, you must understand the trauma of the nineties. Everything we had, everything we had been told, was swept away. We went from superpower to basket case overnight. Our people lost their life savings, not just once but over and over again. Russians are paternalistic people. They believe in the Orthodox Church, the State, the Tsar. They associate democracy with chaos. Our president… uses words like ‘managed democracy’ and ‘State capitalism’ but they’re just euphemisms for something more sinister, fascism.”

Gabriel’s Russian op does not stay in Russia. He learns that the man our reporters were so worried about is a very wealthy Russian oligarch who is very well guarded. Olga tells Gabriel exactly why this particular oligarch is so dangerous and exactly how he has stepped over a “red line” to pursue a business deal that must be stopped.

In Moscow Rules you can read about the plan Gabriel comes up with to flush him out. Since we know that Gabriel’s plans do not go smoothly, find out how he messes up this time. Find out if his new wife is still speaking to him after he never gets back to the honeymoon. It’s a very satisfying Gabriel Allon book. It has all the characteristic parts of the pattern readers expect when they throw in their lot with the Israeli Secret Service and their painterly operative, who manages, despite the powerful people he chases down, to get some of the worst players off the world  stage. I think you will find that it also resonates with the situation we find ourselves in today, vis a vis Russia. Serendipity.

The Messenger by Daniel Silva – Book

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I seem to have summer fever. Instead of reading nonfiction with serious content, I have wandered back to lighter fare. Since I am of the firm conviction that even fiction that entertains is not necessarily cheerful and may even encompass some social commentary, my idea of a frivolous summer book may not be the same as yours. I often click on lists of summer reading suggestions that other people love to post online and their choices almost never conform with mine.

I had previously read two books by Daniel Silva in the Gabriel Allon series. I decided to try to finish up that series this summer. What I discovered is that there are 17 books in this series so far. Silva has written one a year since 2000, only missing 2001 and 2012. It was my idea to read them in order but I am finding that that is difficult if I want to use the library, so out-of-order it is. I will include a list of all 17 books at the end of this post, however. The Messenger was first on my summer agenda. A few words about Gabriel Allon. Mr. Allon may be a stone killer when necessary but he never kills without good reason. He is a good guy, a rescuer, a green-eyed weapon trained by the Israeli Secret Service at King Saul Boulevard and he is at the peak of his talents. He might have been a world class painter if he had not been recruited by his mentor Shamron. Instead he is a first class restorer of famous paintings when he is not following up on intel about some criminal who intends to wreak havoc on whatever part of the world that the miscreant perceives as an enemy.

The villain in The Messenger is a terrorist behind the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and a man who has managed to stay hidden in plain sight by changing his appearance (which has rarely been glimpsed and almost never photographed) and by being under the protection of the very rich Zizi al-Bakari, who funds terrorists but has never been caught at it. Gabriel hates terrorists and, even when he promises his wife he will not get involved he cannot help himself. Gabriel has a whole team of operatives who we also get to know, although not in any great detail. In this particular book we meet Sarah, an American girl who lost her fiancé on 9/11. Sarah has a degree in art and she is no trained operative but she agrees to take part in this plan to catch Zizi and the terrorist he hides. Gabriel’s team is not on board with using Sarah in this dangerous op.

Gabriel’s plans are often quite audacious because the people he is after are so good at evading capture. His plans often center around what he knows best, famous works of art. And Gabriel’s plans almost never go smoothly. They go awry in often spectacular fashion and people get hurt and they die. Gabriel takes a beating in every one of these adventures in keeping the world safe from really bad guys that I have read so far. Sometimes he is not even completely recovered from the last op before it is time for a new one, but he is no bruiser. He is a thin guy approaching middle age who strikes people he meets as very sincere and serious, and who relies on guns more often than his fists. He’s likable but it’s hard to pin down why. When each plan goes off the rails and Gabriel is roughed-up or nearly killed once again I get angry at him for being unable to plan and execute a perfect op. However it is good to see someone who is human in scale beat some of the super bad actors that Gabriel pursues and he always wins in the end, although he never gets much credit. Governments are happy with his results but not with the chaos and mayhem that precedes the rough justice. Gabriel is not a rule follower and that is why he is always in trouble.

2000  The Kill Artist

2002  The English Assassin

2003  The Confessor

2004  A Death in Venice

2005  Prince of Fire

2006  The Messenger

2007  The Secret Servant

2008  Moscow Rules

2009  The Defector

2010  The Rembrandt Affair

2011  The Fallen Angel

2013  The English Girl

2014  The Heist

2015  The English Spy

2016  The Black Widow

2017  House of Spies

2018  The Other Woman

House of Spies by Daniel Silva – Book

The book, House of Spies by Daniel Silva contains a classic spy story with a plot as twisted as the highways through the south of France and the narrow ways in the souks of Morocco. Gabriel Allon is the lead spy in House of Spies, and he has been featured in a previous Silva novel, The English Spy. Allon is a genius at putting together successful operations when ordinary security methods have failed.

He calls in a team of very effective, if reluctant, operators who are not full-time spies. They are tied to him for reasons that are personal (he saved them from a previous, possibly life-ending fate.) Allon knows the heads of government spy networks all over Europe – in this case, England, America, and France. He is also unusual because he heads Israeli security operations.

Saladin is a terrorist/drug supplier (an unusual combination for a Muslim if he is one) who has been very successful at hiding any details which might allow authorities to track his location. Engaging in very few face-to-face contacts by conducting most of his business through intermediaries, and changing his appearance if he feels exposed have sufficed to keep him out of the shared national security data banks.

Gabriel calls on Christopher Keller, who has worked with him before and who is a very talented assassin. Keller has found a way to live a private and satisfying life on the island of Corsica which is controlled by a mafia-style “don” who is fond of and loyal to “family” and who considers Keller a family member. Keller is someone who once led an underground operation in Ireland against the IRA where he connected with Gabriel Allon.

Choosing to listen to this book rather than read it was a big mistake for me. The plot is almost byzantine and I am not, apparently, a good listener. I’m not as used to processing words aurally as visually, but I still managed not to miss much (only caught myself napping twice). The careful, but lengthy preparations lead to a messy and almost disastrous end to this operation.

If you are a fan of nonstop action, and I believe I have made this point before, Silva is possibly not your man. Once again he has written a spy tale that is more brainy than adrenaline-filled. However it is memorable.