The wayward son of Israeli intelligence, Gabriel Allon is plunged into a high stakes game of murder, espionage, and corruption after a beautiful young British woman vanishes on the island of Corsica, which threatens to destroy a prime minister's career.
Gabriel Allon is contacted to conduct a very sensitive mission for the British. Madeline Hart, a beautiful young up-and-coming star in the British governing party, has been kidnapped. To make matters worse, she happens to be the mistress of British Prime Minister Jonathan Lancaster. Graham Seymour, Deputy Director of Britain’s MI5 (analogous to the American FBI) calls upon Allon to help deal with the situation because if MI5 or MI6 (the intelligence service) got involved, it would leak. In addition, Seymour told Allon, “you’re also damn good at finding things...”
The kidnappers have left a note for Lancaster giving him seven days to meet their demands or Madeline will die. The British haven’t the slightest idea even who the kidnappers are, or how they knew about Madeline. So Allon not only has to race against the clock, but do it in the most unfavorable circumstances imaginable. He knows just who to recruit, however, to help him accomplish the impossible, and he takes off for the Isle of Corsica, where Madeline was last seen. From this beautiful island just off the South of France, the trail leads to Provence and elsewhere, as Allon risks his life to find the girl, find her kidnappers, or in the worse case scenario, avenge her death.
Discussion: An "Author’s Note" after the story talks about the political situation in both Britain and Russia which play a role in the story. The issues are quite timely, especially given the current escalation in unhappy relations among the U.S., Britain, and Russia. You may, in fact, have heard of the case of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian whistleblower who had alleged there was a multimillion-dollar embezzlement schemesanctioned and carried out by Russian officials.. He was then arrested on what many were convinced were fabricated charges of tax fraud and subsequently beaten to death. Russia’s own human rights agency found that Magnitsky was tortured in prison and denied medical care. In retaliation, the U.S. Congress, rarely able to agree on anything, managed to come together in December 2012 to pass the bipartisan Magnitsky Act, which imposed sanctions on 18 Russians involved in Magnitsky’s detention. In response, the Russian government blocked any adoptions of Russian children by U.S. citizens, and also came up with their own list of 18 people banned from entering Russia. (They include some names associated with human rights violations at Guantanamo, as well as some U.S. officials involved in the prosecution and trial of Russian arms and drugs smugglers who are serving prison time in the United States.)
Silva is outspokenly in the camp that believes that Vladimir Putin is leading Russia on a “steady descent into authoritarianism.” This outlook, definitely shared by most media in the U.S. and Britain, informs the background of the story.
JAF's Evaluation: This book has a nice build-up of tension, intrigue, and danger; a very appealing hero in Allon; plenty of action, and some touching moments as well. I also like the humor the author employs to lighten the story - much better than the usual boring diversionary subplot. There’s a small bit involving a fortune-teller I would have omitted, but I like to keep paranormal elements strictly closed off in their own genre.
JAB's Impression: While the story kept me turning the pages, I find that LeCarre (to whom Silva has been compared) is much more nuanced, and draws his characters with more depth. LeCarre writes about people with real human-like limitations. This book is about cartoon characters. In LeCarre's books, no one is physically capable of doing anything that several of these characters routinely do. I loved the Jewish humor repartee, but like Jill, I would have cut out the fortune-teller part. But this book definitely provides a quick, entertaining read.
In THE ENGLISH GIRL, a beautiful, intelligent young woman, Madeline Hart, was on vacation in Corsica with friends from work when she disappeared. Madeline worked for England’s Prime Minister and was on her way to notable success in government but her disappearance is not reported to the usual authorities. With an election coming up, the Prime Minister, Jonathan Lancaster, doesn’t want the story publicized because it might harm his chances of reelection: Madeline is his mistress.
A month later, he received a ransom note with very little information but saying if the demands weren’t met, she would be killed in seven days. Gabriel Allon was called in but Lancaster and his close advisor, Jeremy Fallon, refused to follow Allon’s advice for the negotiation. The kidnappers demand they want $10,000,000 pounds to be delivered by Allon. He agreed to be the courier and built a team to help determine who kidnapped her and why as well.
Just when everything should be settled, everything fell apart instead. (Hint: in a book of almost 475 pages, you know it won’t be solved by page 212.)
The plot takes him to Corsica, France, England and Russia where he met several characters from previous books and introduces some new ones. Like all of Daniel Silva’s books, there are many twists and things are not always what they seem to be. The end of the book points to a different life for Allon. Should be very interesting.
The wonderful writing is fast-paced cohesive. Once you know the motive or the probable bad guy, Silva keeps you wondering what Gabriel is going to do with that information. My only complaint is that Silva has fallen victim to the current writing practice of underestimating (I hope) the intelligence of his readers by having short chapters and repeating information previously presented as the characters mentally review what they know.
He refers to several of his previous Allon books when he introduces some of the characters and location that were in those books but those references don’t leave you wondering what he’s talking about. A new reader might be encouraged to read some of the previous ones and veteran fans might want to reread them to capture what they’ve forgotten.
THE ENGLISH GIRL proves why Daniel Silva’s books consistently appear on the New York Times bestsellers list.
A good book overall. Once again, though, this book should only be read in sequence after other books in the series as a casual reader might be lost with the ongoing themes and recurring characters dominating much of the story.
A public worker from England is kidnapped on Corsica. Gabriel Allon is brought in as a favor to the British Prime Minister to help find her before the deadline where they threaten to kill her. He fails. It eats at him, and he has suspicions. Not the least of which is how where some kidnappers able to easily out wit him. He decides to go back and take another look. Something stinks and it doesn't add up. It's a wild ride.
"By way of I deception, my son, thou shalt do war."
Another brilliant, fast paced, thought provoking read in the Gabriel Allon series..