The New Girl by Daniel Silva – Book

Having read all of Daniel Silva’s spy novels that feature Gabriel Allon and his team of talented Israeli intelligence specialized spies, I could not resist getting to The New Girl as soon as possible. None of the other books (there are 18 of them) deals with a global situation that is quite as recent as the one we find here. Silva always uses his spy Allon, now the head of the Israeli Intelligence Service to make sure that bad actors pay for the mayhem they cause and that the activities of the bad actors cease and desist. Often evil doers must die to insure that they will not eventually practice their crimes and terrors at some other point in the future.

This time Daniel Silva wants to remind us of how important journalists and journalism are to maintaining the freedoms that people treasure. We are reminded that one of the first things dictators often do is shut down the free press and support a press that is merely a mouthpiece for the leader. The most shocking recent example involved the murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi by a Saudi assassination team sent into a Turkish embassy, perhaps by Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) the heir to the throne in Saudi Arabia, although he denies it. In a way this novel attempts to do the same thing that Quentin Tarantino did in his most recent movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywoodby righting a wrong, although in both cases we know that a fictional revision of history cannot really right a past wrong. However revenge fiction can offer some personal satisfaction.

The names have been changed of course, MBS becomes Khalid bin Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. who is buying a painting in NYC from our old friend Sarah Bancroft, occasionally part of Gabriel’s team, when his daughter  at a exclusive private school in kidnapped. She is only twelve. Who would know where she was? Who would abduct her? The reasons are not as mysterious. There could be many reasons why Khalid might attract violence. Stealing a child is a low-life way to get the attention of someone this powerful and it is probable that it involves a hope to get Khalid out in the open in order to kill him.

Omar Nawwaf is the name of the fictional character who faces the same fate as Khashoggi and whose murder disgusts people around the world and causes us to stop noticing that MBS is handsome and to just remember that he is ruthless. The world reacts similarly to the killing of Omar Nawwaf in Silva’s book but people who know about the kidnapping of his daughter (very few people) do not believe in punishing the child for the sins of the father. Omar was trying to give Kahlid information about a plot against him by his uncle when he was assassinated. Omar’s wife, Hanifa Khoury, eventually shares what Omar learned with Gabriel, but only to help save the child.

How does it all end? Well, as usual, bummer, I can’t tell you. All the other Gabriel Allon books deal with history that is further in the past. You may feel that this particular piece of global terror is too fresh to qualify for Silva’s fictional treatment of it. People’s reactions will probably be personal and varied. Although many of my favorite characters appear and there is the beginning of a romance that readers should like (but Gabriel does not think will work), I can’t help but feel that it may have been too soon to approach this subject.

Photo Credit: from a Google Image Search – Houstonia

Also find me on Goodreads.com as Nancy Brisson

https://thearmchairobserver.com/

 

The Defector by Daniel Silva – Book

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In order to fully understand The Defector (Bk. 9, Gabriel Allon Series) by Daniel Silva it is helpful to recall the events at the end of Moscow Rules (Bk. 8, Gabriel Allon Series). Gabriel manages to escape from Russia (barely) with a Russian journalist, Olga Sukhova, whose colleagues have been assassinated, and with a man, Grigori Bulganov, who saved Gabriel’s life by making sure he did not die in Lubyanka, the Russian prison.

In The Defector we find out what Bulganov is up to in his new home, London. Silva, Daniel Silva, the author, calls London a Russian city because so many dispossessed Russians live there. Olga Sukhova, also in London with a new identity, is keeping a low profile. But Grigori is tempted out of hiding by another Russian who lives the high life in London.

When Grigori disappears on his way to a Chess game, Graham Seymour, head of British Intelligence, is not terribly upset. He decides that Grigori has become homesick and has “un” defected. However, when Gabriel Allon hears that Grigori is gone he has a different reaction. For one thing he knows that a very bad and powerful oligarch, Ivan Kharkov is still alive and well, although he has to stay in Russia for now. Gabriel also knows that he was able to help Ivan’s ex-wife Elena liberate some of Ivan’s money ($20 million) from a Swiss Bank. Since Elena is in protective custody in an unknown location with the couple’s two children, she needs that money. But you can imagine how much Ivan wants to get his hands on Elena, his children, and Gabriel. Since he can’t leave Russia right now, he must find a way to bring everyone to him.

Ivan Kharkov is a stone-cold bully boy who makes his money selling Russian weapons to people the rest of the world wants to keep weapons away from. Ivan’s hero is Stalin and he strives to model his behavior on the cruelty Stalin used as he purged (killed or tortured) any Russian citizen who he imagined might harbor sentients against his government (regime). Ivan managed to buy the dacha that once was Stalin’s summer home. Ivan uses his dacha to reenact Stalin’s bloody purges on a smaller scale.

When Gabriel doesn’t react right away to the disappearance of Grigori Ivan takes someone else and who he takes definitely gets Gabriel and his team moving.

Daniel Silva and his Israeli spy, Gabriel Allon, along with his team of Israeli operatives, expose bad actors all around Europe and the Middle East and offer up the satisfaction of giving them what they deserve in fiction, even though we often do not experience such justice in real life. When The Defector ends are we finally shut of Ivan Kharkov? My lips are sealed.

In notes at the conclusion of The Defector, Silva connects his fictional spy story to actual historical events that inspired it.

“There, from August 1937 to October 1938, an estimated twenty thousand people were shot in the back of the head and buried in long mass graves. I visited the recently opened memorial at Butovo with my family in the summer of 2007 while researching Moscow Rules, and in large measure it inspired The Defector. One question haunted me as I walked slowly past the burial trenches, accompanied by weeping Russian citizens. Why are there not more places like this? Places where ordinary Russians can see evidence of Stalin’s unimaginable crimes with their own eyes. The answer, of course, is that the rulers of the New Russia are not terribly interesting in exposing the sins of the Soviet past. On the contrary, they are engaged in a carefully orchestrated endeavor to airbrush away its most repulsive aspects while celebrating it achievements. The NKVD, which carried out the Great Terror at Stalin’s behest, was the forerunner of the KGB. And former officers of the KGB, including Vladimir Putin himself, are now running Russia.” -Author’s Note

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search, Daemon Books

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

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.