Portrait of a Spy by Daniel Silva

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Portrait of a Spy by Daniel Silva

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: A fast-paced thriller combining the worlds of art, politics and espionage plus, of course, Gabriel Allon, the ex-Mossad agent who couldn't retire if he wanted to. Predictable in places, but so is Christmas and that's still thoroughly enjoyable.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: October 2011
Publisher: Harper
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0007433315

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Gabriel Allon and his wife, Chiara, decide to rent a nice little Cornish cottage; the perfect hideaway in which to renovate art. A rosy domestic picture that, as any spy thriller aficionado will tell you isn't going to last long. It lasts, in fact, as long as it takes some middle-eastern terrorists to bomb Paris and Copenhagen and then move on to London's Covent Garden. Gabriel and Chiara are there, about to have lunch, but Gabriel is unable to concentrate on the menu and just let things happen. Mr and Mrs Allon end up being dragged back into the day job as they and their multi-national colleagues brandish a spectrum of experience and talent in order to take on a rogue Yemeni cleric who, embarrassingly enough, had been supported by the Americans.

Daniel Silva, former journalist and middle-eastern specialist is no stranger to success and he's prolific with it, having written 13 spy thrillers to date, all of which went straight into the New York Times bestseller list. Gabriel Allon, art restorer with a twist, has featured in 12 of them in as many years. For those unfamiliar with the series, it's effectively a more credible form of 'Mission Impossible' as Allon surrounds himself with a united nations of trusted operatives, each having their own area of expertise. In this adventure he's joined by, amongst others, an art historian, a hit man, an actor, an archaeologist, an ex-soldier and a surveillance expert, some with as many hang ups as strengths and two of whom (apart from Gabriel and Chiara) used to share a bed.

Silva's spies work in a complicated world where Israeli, British and American intelligence all work together whilst still fostering subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) rivalry. He also writes from a position of knowledge, his journalistic experience (and that of his wife, famed NBC journalist Jamie Gangel) shining through as he extrapolates a plot from current affairs encompassing the Saud family and Islamic women's rights in addition to the backdrop of Islamic radicalism. Silva endows the Sauds (the ruling family of Saudi Arabia) with the sort of baddie status that used to belong to cold war Russia, but he also explains why. This addition of an enthralling thread of reality to the fiction gives the book an interesting dimension. His use of the art world has also been meticulously researched. In fact the only techniques and procedures he's 'made up' are those of the spies. Silva's reason for this is nothing if not valid and understandable: governments like to keep that sort of thing secret and, after all, this is fiction.

Allon is all you could wish for in a spy: resourceful, fearless, subtly humorous and with just enough conscience to make him someone with whom we can relate. The plot is a little predictable in places, but only in as much as you could spot ahead of time where things would go wrong. The suspense remains intact, however, as you can't always guess how they're going to rectify and survive. In fact I only have one teeny tiny complaint and Mr Silva doesn't bear this criticism alone; he shares it with historic fiction author Diane Gabaldon and a few other American writers. Ready? Ok... England does not have railroad stations. I forgive you though, Mr S as, since the 13th book in the series is due out soon, I have other things on which to concentrate, namely Gabriel Allon books 1 to 11.

I would like to thank the publisher for providing Bookbag with a copy of this book for review.

If you've enjoyed this, then perhaps An American Spy by Olen Steinhauer could be a good choice.

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Buy Portrait of a Spy by Daniel Silva at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Portrait of a Spy by Daniel Silva at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Portrait of a Spy by Daniel Silva at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Portrait of a Spy by Daniel Silva at Amazon.com.


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