Friday, April 20, 2012

Review of Portrait of a Spy by Daniel Silva

For decades, I read mysteries and science fiction novels almost exclusively, with an occasional history non-fiction title thrown in there, but in the past year or so I’ve become a big fan of spy stories. After reading, Daniel Silva’s The Defector, I’ve been hooked. I picked a Portrait of a Spy without hesitation but waited until my novel Invisible Curtain was complete and released.

I mentioned in an earlier post how great minds think alike. The synopsis on the jacket of Portrait said Gabriel Allon, Silva’s spy, investigates bombs in London, Copenhagen and Paris, while my character, psionic detective Corey Shaw investigates bombs in London, Copenhagen and St. Petersburg. Wow! That was enough to hook me even if I hadn’t read the previous two novels by Silva.  It appears we came up with similar plot points at the same time!

In Portrait, Gabriel is enjoying his retirement on the rainy cliffs of Cornwall with his beautiful wife Chiara, doing nothing more than restoring paintings of the Great Masters. A routine trip to London takes a horrible turn as Gabriel witnesses a suicide bomber kill eighteen people and wound many more, a tragedy he could’ve prevented. Hopelessly entangled in the investigation into the terrorist acts, Gabriel assembles a team from the Israeli secret ops and reluctantly, the CIA. His plan: buy a terrorist cell.

A charismatic Muslim cleric, recruited by the CIA, has switched sides and is recruiting terrorists instead of spying on them. The CIA wants him to go away. Permanently.

Gabriel, through a series of meticulously planned steps approaches the ultra-wealthy daughter of a terrorist he killed several years ago. He takes a gamble that she will not follow in her father’s footsteps and will work with them to bring down a big embarrassment to the CIA and avenge the deaths in Europe, as well as strike a blow to the terrorist network her father developed.

His gamble pays off. Nadia is rich, powerful and smart and agrees to help Allon, not for Israel or the US, but to bring about an end to the oppression of women in her country. Despite her wealth, even she must obey the strict rules levied against women in the Middle East.

Much of the story is the seduction and preparation of Nadia to enter the world of global terrorism. I found it difficult to follow Allon’s plan in some areas, where it seemed the story contradicted itself. Still I found it to be an engaging, captivating story filled with great spy techniques with covert listening devices, devices to befuddle listening devices, surveillance and secret messages.

Silva brings so many minute and vivid details to each of his novels to give the reader the feeling they are standing in the middle of the desert with Allon, or holed up in a safe house in DC with his team.

The exciting page-turning climax in the desert with Allon, Nadia and a multitude of surprises and twists gave me sweaty palms as I gripped the book tightly. I can’t wait for the next novel.

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