'The English Spy': Daniel Silva's 15th in the Gabriel Allon series still thrills
August 30, 2015 12:00 AM
"The English Spy" by Daniel Silva.
Daniel Silva, author of "The English Spy."
By Melissa M. Firman
As readers, sometimes we get too comfortable in our genres of choice. We have our preferences and favorite authors. I’m more likely to pick up a literary fiction book than a mystery or thriller, which explains my unfamiliarity with the work of Daniel Silva.
Mr. Silva’s international intrigue series of novels featuring art restorer Gabriel Allon — who also, most important, works as an Israeli spy — are well-known and often make quick debuts on the best-seller lists. Such is the case with “The English Spy,” which represents the 15th installment in what is known as “the Gabriel Allon series.”
"THE ENGLISH SPY"
By Daniel Silva Harper ($27.99).
Some of Mr. Silva’s fans may disagree, but I didn’t find it necessary to read all of the earlier books in this series before this one. If you’re so inclined, keep in mind that Mr. Silva’s titles tend to be remarkably similar — “The English Assassin” and “The English Girl” are among those preceding “The English Spy.”
While knowing the plots of his previous books might be helpful, readers will figure out the back story quickly enough. There’s quite a bit of it, but before the reader learns the motivations behind the latest global adventure ensnaring Gabriel mere weeks before his wife, Chiara, is due with twins, a high-profile murder is committed. That happens within the first chapter, when a beautiful, philanthropic and beloved princess is killed aboard a yacht. (During interviews, Mr. Silva has shared that the life and marriage of the late Princess Diana of Wales provided inspiration for this unnamed character.)
The royal’s assassin is Eamon Quinn, a member of the Irish Republican Army. No spoilers there, as Mr. Silva divulges this early in his novel in order to set the global stage for Gabriel’s quest to kill the elusive Eamon and his associates. There is significant history between the two men, along with professional assassin Christopher Keller, who returns as Gabriel’s friend and colleague, and the mission to kill Eamon Quinn becomes a personal one. Not to mention that the sooner that some scores are settled, the sooner Gabriel can return to Tel Aviv to his very pregnant wife and resume his other job as a restorer of priceless paintings.
“Such was his unique combination of talents. He was an art restorer, he was a master spy and assassin, a legend who had overseen some of the greatest operations in the history of Israeli intelligence.” History is at the heart of “The English Spy.” Mr. Silva’s author’s notes at the conclusion provide real-life historical context on the international and political events referenced in the novel. His journalism background -- he covered the Middle East for United Press International, followed by work with CNN as executive producer of some of the network’s most popular political talk shows, imbues -- Mr. Silva’s fiction with real-life gravitas.
It is easy to understand Mr. Silva’s appeal to his fans and their devotion to this particular series. The action is sufficiently suspenseful to keep even a non-thriller reader’s interest, which makes up for the occasional uber-dramatic flair taken in the writing: “There is a strict routine to vacating an Office safe property, rules to follow, rituals to observe. They are prescribed by God and chiseled into stone.”
Still, at nearly 500 pages, “The English Spy” is a brisk read as it jet-sets across the globe while Mr. Silva’s characters manipulate each other in a life-and-death quest for international power.
Melissa M. Firman is a writer, editor and blogger at melissafirman.com.
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