Portrait of a Spy

by Daniel Silva

Book, 2011



Call number




New York : Harper, c2011.


After failing to stop a suicide bomber attack in London, master art restorer and assassin Gabriel Allon is summoned by the CIA and is faced with an organization riddled with dissent--and ill-equipped to deal with the deadly new face of global jihadist terror.

User reviews

LibraryThing member co_coyote
I was enjoying a near perfect vacation when my Kindle suddenly quit on me. Yikes! I haven't read a real book in what seems like a long, long time and I had a 7 hour flight home the next day. The only thing I could do was dash into the nearest convenience store for a good mystery novel. Something
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that might last for a few hours on a flight. I've seen Daniel Silva's name on these kinds of books for years, but I've never actually read one. I chose this one because the publisher, HarperCollins, has pity on old folks and prints their books in a readable size typeface. Plus, it was a spy novel and I've read enough of these to know that even if the book was terrible, it wasn't as bad as the in-flight movie.

Imagine, then, my surprise to find a book that not only can be read by tired, old eyes but was well-written and fast-paced enough to keep me enthralled the entire flight. Apparently this book is one of a series written about the Israeli spy, Gabriel Allon. I'm sure I'll be reading a few more.
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LibraryThing member khiemstra631
As usual, a terrorist bombing draws semi-retired spy Gabriel Allon back into action from his quiet Cornwell existence. This time it's a bombing in Covent Garden in London, which Gabriel witnessed and could have stopped had not British security stopped him from stopping the bomber! The Americans
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soon get involved with a scheme to finance a nearly-broke terrorist organization and great strides are made toward shutting down a terrorist network as a result of a cooperative billionaire Saudi Arabian woman, Nadia al-Bakari, daughter of Zizi, a man Gabriel assassinated a few books ago. There is the usual action and taking of prisoners. Despite all of this, I found this book really hard to connect with until the last quarter of it. Maybe it was just that it seemed like so much more of the same. I felt I pretty much knew what would happen before the end of the book. If you've never read a Daniel Silva novel, you will no doubt love this one and probably give it five stars. If you've read them all, then it may be a little ho-hum. Or, maybe it was just me!
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LibraryThing member Doondeck
This series has become very formulaic: Important art work, beautiful woman, Allon gets beaten up. But beyond that, the insulting references to President Obama have led me to decide that this is the last Silva novel I buy. He devoted one sentence to the killing of bin Laden but routinely painted the
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President as a fool. Does he really believe that Bush/Cheney were better for America. In researching him I found out that he actually went on Glen Beck's show. 'Nuff said: No more Silva for me.
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LibraryThing member Clara53
I think here we have a come-back from D.Silva's last novel (The Rembrandt Affair) which was a little sluggish to my taste. In "Portrait of a Spy" the breathless intensity of the spy world is back. My only regret was a streak of negativity about the current president. But otherwise quite a decent
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LibraryThing member ReviewsFromTheHeart
Gabriel Allon knows what its like to live a double life. He's spent the better part of his life living the life of a Spy, sometimes working for Israel and sometimes working for the United States. Now he's being called upon again and the tranquil life he had been trying to live with his wife
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restoring paintings, is about to be put on hold.

Gabriel Allon is one of the top operatives in the field and when terrorist attacks begin popping up in Paris, Copenhagen and then Covent Garden in London, all timed around the fateful 9/11 bombings that happened in 2001, in their retrospective time zones, Gabriel knows that this is no accident. Another mastermind in the field of terrorism is on the rise and no one seems to be able to know just when he will strike next. Now Gabriel is called back in to Washington to help them find a paid CIA asset that appeared to be working for the United States but turns out was using the CIA to form a new network of terror all over the globe. Now that he's gone missing, they want Gabriel to use whatever means necessary to find Rashid and kill him before he has time to plan another attack this time in the United States.

The pawn in this plan is to utilize someone with terrorist ties to gain an inside foothold into the door of where they are operating and to locate just whose at the head of planning these new attacks. The only problem is that Gabriel killed her father while she watched and now they want her to be their inside contact into the world of terrorism. Will he be able to convince her to cooperate or will Gabriel turn out to be the pawn inside to get revenge on the man who killed her father?

In the novel, Portrait of A Spy by Daniel Silva, readers are taken into the midst of non stop action while bombs are exploding and people are dying to get to the root of the latest terrorist attacks aimed at the United States. This is my first book by Daniel Silva and certainly won't be my last. This borders on things that may occur at some point in the future and that's what makes this suspense thriller a page-turner to the end. I received this book compliments of Planned TV Arts and Harper Collins Publishers for my honest review. I loved it and rate it a heart-stopping 5 out of 5 stars.
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LibraryThing member norinrad10
Silva is such a good writer and these characters are so interesting that almost three quarters of the book passes before you realize that there is no story here and nothing has really happened. This time Gabriel is chasing a terrorist mastermind ala Bin Laden. He uses the daughter of an enemy that
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he killed in a previous adventure to lure the mastermind in. Not the best of the Gabriel books but certainly better then 90% of what passes for suspense writing.
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LibraryThing member SalemAthenaeum
Gabriel Allon returns in Daniel Silva's new action book "Portrait of a Spy." While continuing his work as an art restorer, Allon is dragged into another international situation, this time involving terrorists, fraud, and an old friend. Follow his daring trips across Europe and the Middle East as he
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helps the CIA to take down one of the most dangerous terrorists in history.
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LibraryThing member labdaddy4
Excellent work by he author, as always. Much emphasis on the background and development of the operation to erase major terrorist treat - less flat-out action - guns, blood, etc. This makes for a read where one needs to think and follow rather than just be swept along by the action.
LibraryThing member MSWallack
While I eagerly look forward to each new Gabriel Allon book, I do worry that Silva has gotten into a bit of a rut. It seems that several of the last few books have been very, very similar, and not in a good way. Portrait of a Spy just never took off for me. The story seemed predictable, too many of
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the characters came and went without any real purpose, the detailed planning that makes the operations enjoyable to read about seemed largely glossed over, and a central component of the operation just wasn't explained well enough (as in, why go through this very complicated sequence of tasks in the first place). Finally, toward the end, certain actions seemed to be somewhat out of character for Allon. Nevertheless, I am still eagerly looking forward to the next Silva book featuring Gabriel Allon.

I do want to echo what some other reviewers have said: The repeated and uncessary (and in my opinion, incorrect bashing of President Obama detracted from the story. I don't mind if Silva's politics are different from mine; I don't mind if he wants to let me know that (hey, I read Thor and Flynn, too). And if he wants a character to be critical of a real world figure, that's fine. But in this book it was overdone and often seemed both mean-spirited and, as I've said, unnecessary for the story.
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LibraryThing member readafew
3 terrorist suicide bombings occur in 3 different European cities in an obvious coordinated attack. Gabriel happens to be in London and spots the suicide bomber on his way to his final destination. Gabriel decides to stop him.

Turns out there is a new terrorist network and the CIA had an
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inadvertent hand in it's creation. Since Gabriel showed up on the radar with the London bombing, they asked him for help in cleaning up the mess. In order to do it, they need to find a rich Arab willing to help. The name that comes up is a familiar one to Gabriel, her father had been a target.

Overall, it's a really good book, the only reason I didn't rate it higher is because the format is starting to get a little old. By now you know Gabriel is going to put himself in harms way for someone and get himself beat up, severely. There are several other things that just automatically happen. If you haven't read many of the previous books in the series then it is an excellent read, the story is still worth it. Once again Silva points out wrongs in the world and how so many are turning a blind eye to them. This time it's what Saudi Arabia does/is doing.
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LibraryThing member Replay
OMG...I was looking for a summer book, to read on the beach. No intellectual elucubrations, no philosophy on metaphysics, no where-am-I-who-am-I kinda essay, just a plain, fun and easy-reading book. The cover looked promising, half da vinci code, half Angelina Jolie running around in Lara Croft
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gear. Well, I ended up with a Fox News intern first book, full of cliches about everything and just SO so easy to read. My 3-years old French speaking niece enjoyed it as well, coloring the pages accross the book to fill in the blanks.
I cant' believe I actually paid for that.
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LibraryThing member dekan
this was a great book. i love the whole spy/art restorer angle. i've read the rest in this series as well and can't wait for the next. if you like the spy game with not going to overboard this is a good book to read. Another masterful effort in the world of Gabriel Allon who is once again drawn
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into the Israeli spy net when he witnesses a terror attack in London.
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LibraryThing member Olivermagnus
Former Israeli assassin Gabriel Allon is once again attempting retirement and normal life in rural England. The gifted painter and his beautiful young wife, also on the Mossad's payroll, return to London to pick-up a painting in need of professional restoration. While they are there, Gabriel sees a
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suspicious man walking through the crowded city streets. He recognizes the man as a potential suicide bomber and begins pursuit. His instincts prove correct but he’s unable to prevent the terrorist from detonating his explosive vest and killing eighteen bystanders. Consequently, Allon is pressed back into service to bring down the terror network responsible for the bombing.

The main plot involves Allon's recruiting of the beautiful daughter of a Saudi businessman, who inherited the business after her father is killed in Cannes, France. The target is an elusive American- born cleric in Yemen, once a paid CIA asset. The CIA once again has been fooled and Adrian Carter, the unorthodox director of the agency's National Clandestine Service, realizes that Allon's Israeli team is better poised to find the cleric and neutralize him permanently.

Portrait of a Spy is satisfying enough to add weight to the contention that Daniel Silva is the best thriller writer of this generation. Gabriel Allon is the James Bond of the post-9/11 era. The complexity and contemporary realism of the plot is compelling and I recommend the series to anyone who enjoys a great espionage novel. I listened to the audio version by Simon Vance and it was excellent.

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LibraryThing member rosies
a good spy novel; I'm now interested in the whole series
LibraryThing member buffalogr
While this is another Gabriel Allon novel, it seemed to illustrate a few real issues/peeves of the author: treatment (bad) of women in the islamic world, dedication of the radical jihad adherents against western morals and views and spy trade craft...to name a few. I couldn't help drawing those
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conclusions even though the story was fictitious. Well researched, I'd say.
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LibraryThing member flashflood42
Someone eles's review that I liked:
Gabriel Allon has "retired" to Cornwall to spend leisurely days with his wife Chiara. He awaits his next restoration project and is delighted to learn that Julian Isherwood has an undiscovered Titian needing work. Gabriel and Chiara travel to London to negotiate
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the work but a terrorist gets in the way. Terrorists have launched attacks in Paris and Copenhagen. The eagle eyes of Allon spot a human bomb in crowded Covent Garden. He has mentally calculated the timing of the next explosion and his instincts are triggered as he steps in to try to stop the detonation. And so the 2011 installment of the Allon series begins.

Silva, once again, brings the art restorer/ Israeli operative out of retirement. To say that this is a coincidental is a given, but Silva gets a pass to set up one of the most intricate books in the series. Gabriel cannot say no to the coalition of terrorist fighters being assembled by the the United States and joins them in Washington. All the players whom we have come to know are there: Eli Lavon, street surveillance expert; Uzi Navot, Israel's chief of secret intelligence; Ari Shamron, esteemed head of Massad and Adrian Carter, director of the CIA's National Clandestine Service. A most ingenious plan is formulated that involves recruiting Nadia al-Bakari, daughter of Zizi al-Bakari who financed mass murder and was killed by Allon in The Secret Servant. Could the team enlist her aid to bring down the group who has threatened to continue the work of Al-Qaeda and Bin Laden. (n.b During the writing of this book the death of Bin Laden happened. Silva incorporates it into the plot without skipping a beat.)

The action moves from London to New York, Washington, Paris, the opulent city of Dubai, and the Saudi desert. Setting is a real strength of any Silva book. He has done his research and through his descriptions he plops the reader down into those settings. Portrait of a Spy is no exception. Anyone who has been to London feels right at home walking with Gabriel and Chiara through Covent Garden even if it is on the heels of a human bomb.

Portrait of a Spy is thrilling and a page turner. Silva is a master of that. There is no way the reader can erase the final scenes from the mind's gallery. But Silva is also a political and social commentator. He does not easy hide in this book his disdain for the Saudi treatment of women nor the country's leadership in it's part in the terrorists' world. His mastery of the subject matter almost make for prophetic reading and a real wake-up call to those who have been lulled into complacency. His books are not to be missed and I dread the day that Gabriel Allon goes into retirement for real. ( 4 stars)
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LibraryThing member johnwbeha
I've always really enjoyed the Gabriel Allon series some I started with "Death In Vienna" in Vienna. So I was somewhat surprised when I opened up this one to find that I had missed two, but I have now corrected that failing and I had already got the next one. I'll ration myself to one every six
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weeks or so.
I found the last two I read "The Secret Servant" and "Moscow Rules" rather less satisfying than their predecessors, with a "caper" element that was enjoyable but less thought-provoking; so I was pleased that this was a return to his best work. Another reviewer says she finds it difficult to treat this books as simply fiction, I agree entirely, the quality of the research and the lack of "punch-pulling" are aspects of Silva's work I appreciate and enjoy.
My wife has just told me the most recent book is on my Christmas list!
One moan however, when the book is set in England the editors should know that we have railways rather than railroads, and that we shop not market .
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LibraryThing member Picathartes
I thought this one was better than average, but not a better Daniel Silva / Gabriel Allon novel. The ending is really, really good, but most of the story dragged out as he laid the groundwork for the big picture. Even if you knew the backstory having read the other books, it seemed to take ages to
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get all the players in place for the real story to take place.

As always the art and art restoration stuff and the peoples involved are fun and enjoyable. The bad guys and the intelligence agencies and the politics and machinations I enjoyed a whole lot less. The personal lives of our characters also fell a bit short. And I wasn’t happy at the end with how it... ummm, ended (without giving it away) even though that was explained away is a satisfactory way to take the edge off. Still....
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LibraryThing member skinglist
One of my favorites in the Gabriel Allon series in quite a few books. Read quickly, although I fear the book was going to land in the Hudson River if I didn't like the way it ended. Once again, I was left fearing for Shamron's life - and to some extent Chiara's. I know that Gabriel will survive as
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long as Silva wishes to keep writing. Gabriel seems to be making peace with the possible passing of the Old Man - Shamron would never survive Gabriel's death.

The parallels with the real war on terror are eeie - but Silva keeps the narrative strong enough to enjoy the story, not the news. I fear for Allon with Nadia's death on his hands - but it seems to make him stronger. The Prince of Fire indeed and I liked that tie back to an earlier title. Reading this on the heals of Rembrandt made some of it redundant... I never realized how Silva reuses the exact same verbiage to describe the Office, but I guess most people read the books a year apart - not days apart.

If he really does head to Rome as the end seems I will miss the villagers in Cornwall who are so clearly enthralled with Gabriel and Chiara. Their love for him makes him seem all the more real.
Because it had been a while since I read the book with Sarah and Zizi I forgot all about Nadia - I was in the world of Kharkov. I like how Nadia was written - and I like that she was able to learn Gabriel's truth before she passed. Was she really ill though? I didn't remember that mention - I like the underlying tension with Chiara and Nadia, although I loved knowing Gabriel was loyal - there was no worry. I miss his visits to his wife though and can't recall if Leah has passed.

Interesting to see how it wrapped - and who the person was who sold out Gabriel & Nadia, but I felt it too contrived. While their death ensured Gabriel's survival, I'd love to have known how / why Nadia's team turned on her. Or why Malik let her survive so long. His ultimate undoing? The pace of this book was perfect to read in spurts - and to grow attached.

A wonderful lines - but two I'm sure will never come true:
"The illustrious career of Gabriel Allon was finally over. He was no longer Israel's avenging angel. He was an art restorer employed by Isherwood Fine Arts, and England was his home."

"'I had no choice but to set him free,' Shamron said after his fabled encounter with Gabriel atop the cliffs of Cornwall. 'This time it's for good'"

The latter may be, however, when/if the Old Man finally passes. But I think he's Silva's muse as much as Gabriel is so maybe he is eternal. I like the evolving father/son relationship that's more obvious than implied.

My random thought.. what language to Gabriel and Chiara use with one another? Shamron doesn't understand Italian - Hebrew while he was there? Chiara must speak from her Office work. They are clearly family as when Gabriel was first dispatched to the US, Gabriel asked Uzi to take Chiara back to Israel... to help Gilah.
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LibraryThing member jimgysin
This is the 11th Gabriel Allon novel from Silva, and it is very good. At the same time, when you've done ten previous titles in a series, then it's easy for things to start to seem repetitive and derivative of previous outings, and that's once again the problem here. The last time around, the
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problem was surmounted by a particularly good plot line, but this one takes a bit of a step back on the plot front, making the more formulaic aspects of things more noticeable. Perhaps some of it is because I've read several of the titles in the past six months or so in an attempt to get caught up on the series, but I've treated other series authors in similar ways in the past and not had this same sense of having been there and done that. Oh, well. The bottom line is that, for whatever the reason, things did not seem particularly fresh here. For starters, Gabriel, an art restorer when he's not helping out Israeli intelligence, has been given a new restoration commission, which can only mean that he's about to get drawn back into his old life once again, just as washing your car can only mean that it's going to rain tomorrow. And so Gabriel and his old antiterrorism team are reunited once again and set about to put down the bad guys by employing their usual methods, including the use of some tactics that are tied to Allon's knowledge of art and the art world. And they more or less succeed (as always), but not without cost and not without (as always) a lot of angst and suffering and guilt for Allon.

And perhaps it is this last point that is beginning to get tedious for me, because everyone involved in this story would have been upset and disappointed by the things that went wrong here, but once again it is Allon who needs the time to recover mentally; it is Allon who has everyone worried; it is Allon who needs delicate handling by people tiptoeing around his damaged psyche, etc. Yes, he's the one who took some physical abuse as things played out, but they *all* failed when failure happened, not just Allon, and this willingness of his to take on the weight of the world is admirable, but tedious. Yes, I'm repeating that word because it fits so well here. And the whole thing just doesn't speak highly of the rest of the team who, if the lack of any mention is at all indicative, just went back to their "regular" lives with no scars of any kind, or something.

Beyond that, two particular oddities stood out for me in this one. The first was the choice of artwork for the hardback cover, which I realize isn't exactly something that is entirely within the control of the author. But here we get an image of the Louvre, which I would think would lead most readers to think that this particular museum is going to play a role in the story, and probably a significant one. But in reality, it plays no role at all, other than to have its windows rattled at one point. So anyone who picks up this book as a Louvre fan is going to be quite disappointed. I can only assume that the cover was meant to speak to both the art side of the story and to its European elements, but it still seems like a deceptive choice to me. The second oddity was one that definitely fell into Silva's purview, on the other hand. Near the end of the book, one of Allon's team is working with a group of Israeli commandos, and they are making their way to Allon's location to lend him a hand when ... well, nothing. That's it. They're on their way, and then we never hear anything more about them. We hear another character mention this team member later on, indicating that he is alive and well and all of that, but there's a huge hole in his narrative and we hear nothing from him at all about this missing time. Did he and the commando team just give up? Were they, in reality, the "Saudi military patrol" that Silva mentions? And if so, why misidentify them to the reader?

In any case, and in spite of these issues, Silva continues to be a darn good writer who does his homework and who doesn't give in to the sort of over-the-top nonsense that so many thriller writers can't seem to resist. And it is because of the overall quality of Silva's work that I expect so much from him and am disappointed when something falls short, and it's why I believe that a review of one of his books deserves far more than an "I liked it" or an "I didn't like it." As for this one, and in spite of some disappointments and unanswered questions over it, I will still be reading the next and most recent outing in the series sooner, rather than later. And I will try to remember to blame myself at least in part for any sense of déjà vu that I experience.
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LibraryThing member raizel
The usual gang gets together to once again try to prevent a terrorist attack, this time by Islamic terrorists.
LibraryThing member Brumby18
Good for flights,stays with the whisky..
LibraryThing member utbw42
Another masterful effort in the world of Gabriel Allon by Mr. Silva as Allon is once again drawn into the Israeli spy net when he witnesses a terror attack in London, and is then asked to shut down the same terror network. The catch is he needs the help of a woman whose father Allon killed some
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time ago when the father was a terrorist mastermind. This book gets extremely tense in parts, which Silva has once again demonstrated his gift for thriller writing. Can't wait for the new Silva novel which comes out next week....
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Original publication date



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