Review: The Other Woman by Daniel Silva

Other WomanThe best spy novel you’ll read this year, The Other Woman is a tour de force of slow-burn tension and intrigue.

In a year of quite brilliant tales of espionage — Charles Cumming’s The Man Between and Henry Porter’s Firefly, to name just two — Daniel Silva’s new Gabriel Allon thriller supersedes everything that has come before it. Reminiscent of the great Cold War thrillers from yesteryear  a reflection of current events rather than exaggeration on the author’s part The Other Woman is superb work of espionage from a skilled interpreter of all things topical.

In The Other Woman, Gabriel Allon — the legendary art restorer and assassin who serves as the chief of Israel’s vaunted and deadly secret intelligence service  and his trusted team are tasked with discerning the identity of a Russian mole who has reached the highest echelons of Britain’s MI6. It is a search that thrusts Allon back in time, to one of the 20th century’s greatest intelligence scandals, a period British Intelligence would rather forget, and are therefore resentful of its resurrection. Whether or not Allon identifies the mole, his relationship with the Western intelligence agencies will never be the same again.

The book has everything for the spy fiction aficionado: ample adrenaline-surging action,  endless bureaucratic infighting, and plot-twists you won’t see coming. It works perfectly as a standalone, too: although this is Gabriel Allon’s eighteenth mission, The Other Woman resets the board for the series. Silva writes smart, sophisticated, grounded thrillers: less Ludlum and Flynn (whose explosion-filled, breakneck thrillers I adore), more akin to the fine work of le Carré and Greene. His endnote, too, is rather chilling, as he details the current state of the world, and Russia’s place in it.

Deftly plotted and elegantly written: The Other Woman might just be the spy novel of the year.

5 Star.jpg

ISBN: 9781460755471
Format: Paperback (235mm x 155mm x 37mm)
Imprint: HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd
Publish Date: 23-Jul-2018
Country of Publication: Australia

Review: House of Spies by Daniel Silva

HouseOfSpies.png

Following on directly from the events in The Black Widow, Daniel Silva’s seventeenth Gabriel Allon thriller, House of Spies, pits the new chief of Israel’s intelligence services against his most formidable opponent yet: the terrorist Saladin, who has just pulled off a spectacular attack on London’s West End.

House of Spies charts the planning and execution of a Gabriel Allon masterminded operation — with the assistance of international intelligence agencies, of course — to locate Saladin, terminate him, and dismantle his vast network of Islamic State terrorists. Silva’s plotting is as deliberate as always; so too his prose, which constitutes a distinguished elegance that separates him from his contemporaries. This is a riveting thriller, which includes the requisite gunfights and explosions genre aficionados demand, but is at its best during its character interactions, when Silva depicts the different styles of global intelligence services, and offers nuanced commentary on geopolitics. This is a genre flooded with novels that rush the build-up; authors desperate to light the fuse and get to the explosion before readers can take a breath. Silva’s expertise is that period between the lighting of the fuse and the explosion; the ratcheting of tension, the heightening of suspense. And nobody else does it with such style and grace, and a great sense of the interpersonal. House of Spies has a gigantic cast, but these people are not faceless merchants of death. They are genuine characters with unique personalities, and reading their interactions is a joy.

Perhaps not the best novel for newcomers to start with, House of Spies serves as another reminder of Daniel Silva’s immense talent. As the world gets scarier and the threats against democracy more vicious, Silva’s thrillers provide much-needed literary escapism, where the good guys don’t always win, but their efforts are stirring, and their adventures delightfully pulse-pounding and unputdownable.

ISBN: 9781460750230
Format: Paperback
Pages: 544
Imprint: HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd
Publish Date: 24-Jul-2017
Country of Publication: Australia

Review: The Black Widow by Daniel Silva

Black WidowIn his foreword, Daniel Silva notes that he began writing The Black Widow before the Paris attacks of 2015. That his latest thriller is published so soon after the devastating terrorist attack in Nice — a cruel coincidence — demonstrates just how prophetic these geopolitical thrillers can be.

Daniel Silva writes smart, sophisticated, highly literate thrillers. The fuse always burns slowly, which makes the explosion all the more impactful. The Black Widow – the sixteenth Gabriel Allon novel – is no different. It begins in the Marais district of Paris where ISIS detonates a massive bomb, killing hundreds; including a friend of Gabriel’s. The French government enlists the aid of the impending chief of Israeli intelligence to eliminate the terrorist mastermind responsible: the enigmatic Saladin. And so, Allon endeavours to accomplish the impossible: infiltrate ISIS and prevent its forthcoming attacks.

Of course, Allon is a recognizable spymaster; he can hardly penetrate the terrorist network himself. So he enlists a civilian, the French-born Dr. Natalie Mizrahi, whose background makes her the perfect undercover agent. This is where Silva derives much of the novel’s tension: a young Jew, with no field experience and minimal training, hiding in plain sight in the heart of the caliphate. Can she possibly pull off the impossible? Those who’ve read Silva before will know his plots always divert into the unexpected. Nothing is ever straightforward.

For some time now, Silva has been transitioning Allon towards his role as the director, rather than an agent, of Israeli intelligence. For the first time in the series, Silva presents Gabriel as more of a supporting character rather than protagonist, and if The Black Widow is anything to go by, his future novels might have a wider cast, with Mikhail Abramov and Dina Sarid poised to play larger roles. On the one hand, it’s sad to see Allon fading from the limelight; on the other, it’s so rare for a series like this to exhibit such character progression. Most leads in thriller-fic are stagnant, so this is a refreshing change. And if this is indeed Gabriel Allon’s final call to arms, it is a brutally fitting finale.

Every Daniel Silva novel is a treat, and The Black Widow is no different. The consistency of the Gabriel Allon series is truly astounding. The man is peerless; I’m certain I’ve used this line before, but it deserves repeating: no other writer is as capable of providing as many thrills and genuine heartbreaks, as Silva. Whether you’re a long-time fan or a newcomer, if you’re looking for a great thriller, you’ll struggle to find better than The Black Widow.

ISBN: 9780732298951
Format: Paperback
Pages: 496
Imprint: HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd
Publish Date: 1-Aug-2016
Country of Publication: Australia

Review: The English Spy by Daniel Silva

English SpyThe English Spy weaves together reams of continuity and backstory into an utterly masterful spy novel. The latest in the Gabriel Allon series is not just an exemplary thriller, but a spellbinding portrait of the damaged lives lead by spies, their handlers, and their bureaucratic allies.

While the wait for Allon to finally ascend to the role of Chief of Israel’s top secret spy organisation seems eternal, Daniel Silva is at least filling time with compelling escapades in the life of his protagonist. In this instance, his target is Eamon Quinn, an IRA mercenary famed for his bomb-making skills, who is found responsible for the murder of the ex-wife of the future king of England. Partnered with Christopher Keller – ex-SAS, turned mercenary, now on track to become an agent of MI6 – it soon becomes clear the former Princess’s death was engineered to lure Allon and Keller into pursuit in order for a grander foe to enact revenge for past sins. As the saying goes: this time, it’s personal…

As always, Silva executes his narrative in lyrical form. Throughout The English Spy he moves confidently between characters, blending explosive action with bureaucracy, and streamlining the events of previous novels into a palatable form for new readers. The novel’s end feels distinctly like the conclusion of Allon’s career as a field operative, but certainly not the end of his story. And given Silva’s proclivity for producing output of such excellence, readers can expect riveting things from future tales involving the head of ‘the office.’  In the meantime, The English Spy is a thriller to savour.

4 Stars Excellent

ISBN: 9780732298944
Format: Paperback
Pages: 496
Imprint: HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd
Publish Date: 1-Jul-2015
Country of Publication: Australia

Review: The Heist by Daniel Silva

The Heist 389Modern thrillers have become ultra-violent testosterone-bulked video-games-in-print.

I don’t say that as an admonishment against such novels, or video games; my favorite thriller is ICE STATION by Matthew Reilly, a guns-blazing-high-body-count action blockbuster; and the MAX PAYNE trilogy of video games, which necessitate the slaying of hundreds, likely thousands, of bad guys, make up some of my fondest gaming memories.

But as thrillers and spy novels have attempted to replicate their wide-screen Hollywood counterparts, character and plot have begun to feel less nuanced and increasingly hyperbolic. Once, authors could derive tension from two characters engaging in a conversation; now, that tension is exaggerated, and founded on impossible death defying acts. Once, an author could light the fuse, and the journey towards that inevitable explosion could be deliberate and measured; now, readers demand shorter fuses, and a faster payoff.

Like le Carre, still the master of the genre, Daniel Dilva has shrugged off these modern day tropes, and with THE HEIST, has crafted a slow-burn spy novel, thick with tension, with economical use of violence.

The fourteenth Gabriel Allon novel – my first – is a naturalistic literary thriller; hushed rather than hyperbolic; imbedded in the real world of espionage.  And while his prose is wonderful, it’s never flowery; Daniel Silva never gets lost in the poetry of his sentences. THE HEIST isn’t a literary novel masquerading as a thriller; it’s simply the work of an extraordinary stylist playing with language in a genre revered for its brusqueness.

Gabriel Allon, part-time art restorer, full-time secret agent for the Israeli intelligence service, ‘The Office,’ is working on a project in Venice when he’s interrupted by General Ferrari, who pulls Gabriel into a mystery involving the death of a former English diplomat. The plot unravels from there into a complex tale involving missing artwork, and the pursuit of a money trail connected to the finances of a brutal Middle East dictator.

THE HEIST moves slowly, but its pace is deliberate, as Silva heightens the tension towards the its climax, when an innocent life is on the line and Allon holds the key to her survival. Gabriel Allon is a curious protagonist, two disparate passions merging to create a complex master spy. I’m fortunate; I have another 13 Allon thrillers to get to know this character. I’ll definitely be doing so.