The target is royal. The game is revenge. She is an iconic member of the British Royal Family, beloved for her beauty and charitable works, resented by her former husband and his mother, the Queen of England. When a bomb explodes aboard her holiday yacht, British intelligence turns to one man to track down her killer: legendary spy and assassin Gabriel Allon. Gabriel's target is Eamon Quinn, a master bomb maker and mercenary of death who sells his services to the highest bidder. Fortunately Gabriel does not pursue him alone; at his side is Christopher Keller, a British commando turned professional assassin who knows Quinn's murderous handiwork all too well. And though Gabriel does not realize it, he is stalking an old enemy - a cabal of evil that wants nothing more than to see him dead. Gabriel will find it necessary to oblige them, for when a man is out for vengeance, death has its distinct advantages.
This is a tale of espionage involving Israel, Great Britain and the United States. The author does not seem to be a fan of the current political atmosphere under Barack Obama, and he comments on the way Israel is being treated by our government and also on the current Iran talks concerning nuclear weapons, of which he does not seem to approve. Many comments disparage Obama’s rudeness and his disengagement and possible disrespect of the Israeli government. He also comments on aspects of the Israeli and British governments, of which is not enamored.
The novel is read well by George Guidall, with just the right amount of expression. The narrative crosses numerous countries in Europe, as several spy agencies collaborate and try to solve the mystery of what caused an explosion on a yacht carrying a former British princess, the divorced first wife of the heir to the throne. Her mysterious death begins the intrigue, but sub plots within the plot drive the tale further. The twists and turns can sometimes be confusing, so perhaps a print book would be a better choice than the audio version.
In this fifteenth book of the Allon series, Gabriel Allon, future head of The Office, in Israel, is intercepted while on his way to Rome to restore a Caravaggio painting. Graham Seymour, of MI6, had been quietly contacted by Israeli intelligence with information about the assassin, Eamon Quinn, whom they believe was behind the murder of the former princess. Gabriel Allon is considered the one best suited for the task of finding this murderer. With Christopher Keller, a former British agent who is now a paid assassin, the team is assembled to solve the crime and bring the perpetrators to justice. Allon decides to take on the investigation, although his wife, Chiara, is only weeks away from giving birth to their twins. Because he is on the older side now, and more important, because he is soon to be promoted to head Israeli intelligence, it is not really a good idea for him to be involved and put in so much danger, but he makes the decision to join the effort, with his wife’s support, because the search soon becomes personal to him. Allon wants to catch Eamon Quinn. He is a killer for hire. A former member of the IRA, he was in prison when he met Tariq, an Islamic terrorist, a bomb-maker who was having trouble with his timing mechanisms. Quinn taught him how to make a better bomb. He then used his new knowledge to blow up Allon’s car, taking his son Daniel’s life and permanently destroying his first wife’s emotional stability. Allon was supposed to be in that car, but on that day, it was his first wife and son who became the targets instead. This sub plot involves Islamic terrorists, the Palestinian Arabs.
Christopher is willing to return to the intelligence service because for him the capture of Quinn is also personal. Both men, Allon and Keller, had once worked together to take down the IRA. Keller’s girlfriend and son were murdered when his informant turned on him, revealing their whereabouts. Keller and Allon are the two agents best suited for this kind of espionage effort. They are explosive experts. They both knew Quinn, and Keller had once been his prisoner.
On the other side of the coin, for Quinn, it is also personal. He wants to kill both Keller and Allon for the part they played in stopping the IRA and in the murder of many of its members. However, Quinn seems to take pleasure in the killing and the others do not. They are doing a job, while Quinn seems to be enjoying himself and priding himself on his kills.
Allon and Keller follow leads which bring them in contact with Quinn’s Russian accomplice, a young woman who was trained with Madeline Hart, the young Russian spy Allon brought to England. Unknown to them, the beautiful Russian woman they are following is going to plant a bomb. When Quinn leaves a cryptic message, “the bricks are in the wall”, on Allon’s cell phone, they know something terrible is about to happen. The message is proof positive to Allon that the assassin’s identity is Eamon Quinn. Quinn is a master bomb-maker. The bombing of the yacht was for the purpose of fleshing Allon out of the shadows. The Russians are angry with Allon for rescuing their spy, Madeline Hart, and providing her sanctuary in a safe house. The defection humiliated them. The bombing in front of Harrods was Quinn’s next stage which was intended to take out both Keller and Allon.
The plot twists and turns. There are personal vendettas to be resolved and while the book is not rocket science, it is really well written and well researched. It will keep you coming back for more as the tension builds slowly to a crescendo. One thing is important to think about at the end of the book. While it is true that Quinn was a cold blooded murderer as was the female Russian agent he worked with, so also were Allon and Keller. It gave me pause when I considered the thin line that separated the killer who was good and the killer who was evil and the reasons that defined both. Both thought they were working for a good cause, but the goodness seemed to be “in the eyes of the beholder”. Also, the Israelis were depicted as brutal when they questioned prisoners. I wondered if it showed that enhanced interrogation actually worked. Regardless, it seems that everyone involved turned a blind eye to everyone’s violence in the interest of their own cause.
THE ENGLISH SPY opens with the death of a British princess, based loosely on Princess Diana, which is called a boating accident but is more likely a murder. His job is to try to find the person responsible for setting off the bomb that blew up the ship. Accompanying him is Christopher Keller, a British commander and professional assassin.
As more bombs explode, it quickly becomes obvious that Allon and Keller have become the targets. Allon is seriously injured when he tries to save the lives of a woman and her young son before another bomb goes off. He not only isn’t able to do so, his own death is widely reported which changes the game plan for everyone.
Unlike the previous books in the series, this one has very little mention of his art restoration work. It does, however, include very current events and observations. Silva may have been prescient or just showing more understanding of the Middle East when he wrote “There was a faint glimmer of hope regarding the Iran nuclear negotiations.” As I write this, the talks are still going on and the deadline keeps getting extended.
Silva takes on the media when he wrote “Watching the news after an airstrike on Gaza, Gabriel wondered why CNN used so many British reporters: “The news always sounded more authoritative when delivered with a British accent, even if not a word of it was true.” He later notes “The politicians and the press always seemed to focus on the dead after a bombing, but the wounded were soon forgotten.
The American administration is on the table with this observation on the Middle East:
“Uzi, [the Department head] wasn’t the one who made the mess.” “No...The Americans did that. The president and his advisors were to quick to part with the Arab strong men. Now the president’s confronted with a world gone mad, and he doesn’t have a clue as to what to do about it.”
There is a succinct history of the effect of the IRA on Ireland when Silva writes
“The Republic of Ireland was once a land with almost no violent crime. Until the late 1960s Ireland’s national police force...numbered just seven thousand officers, and in Dublin there were only seven squad cars.” After the start of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the Provisional IRA began robbing banks in the south. Local hoods followed their example and by 1970 Ireland “was a gangland where criminals and revolutionaries operated with impunity.”
And he has great command of words and irony when he wrote “Mortensen’s office was on the top floor. Its furnishings were solid, pale, and Danish So was Mortensen.”
THE ENGLISH SPY is fast-paced, flows smoothly and well-written. There are references to many of Allon’s previous experiences throughout the book but it is not necessary to have read them to appreciate this one. I did find the ending much too condensed; it was more like an epilogue.
Once again, unfortunately, the book has way too many unnecessarily short chapters which could easily be combined since they are about the same people in the same situation at basically the same time. I resent authors who treat their readers as if the reader had a very short attention span. (I wonder how Dickens would have handled them.) I always reduce my rating one star when I encounter them.
This story contains a fascinating combination of plotting Russians, battling British, and even the Irish, still fighting an old religious war, and all those groups create a fine story. Double-crossings, old sorrows, loyalty, love, hate, all set in accurately described locations.
The novel’s end feels like it might be the conclusion of Allon’s career as a field operative, but certainly not the end of his story. I think readers can expect riveting things in the future involving the new head of '”The Office.” This story can be read as a stand-alone novel but the recurring characters are more enjoyable if the reader has read some of the prior books. No one does spy thrillers better than Daniel Silva and I can't wait to see what happens in the next book. 4.5 Stars
The story is so well crafted and I was drawn into the web of spies and revenge from the get go. Even though I have not read any of the other books in this series, I really got into the character of Gabriel Allon. I will definitely have to read more of the books in this series.
I highly recommend this to readers of espionage/spy themed books and for those who just like a good story, you need to read this too.
In the Caribbean an English princess and a few select friends have chartered a yacht for a pleasure cruise. In the middle of the night the ship explodes killing all aboard; the bombmaker, an ex-IRA man called Quinn, escaped on a life boat. Britain’s MI-6 determines Quinn is responsible and the head asks Allon to track him down. Allon is reluctant because he is about to head to Jerusalem with his very pregnant wife where he will become head of Israel’s secret service. However he is persuaded because Quinn was involved with a bombing attempt on his own life which killed his young son. Allon teams up with another man who has his own reason to want Quinn dead. Christopher Keller was with the SAS in Northern Ireland and he was captured by Quinn. He managed to escape but Quinn killed the woman he loved.
Quite a gripping tale that moves around the world.