The Book is Reviewed Here, #1
The English Spy is the fifteenth installment in Daniel Silva's Gabriel Allon series, and I read it with the same enthusiasm and excitement (and alacrity) as The Kill Artist, which was the first book of the series, published way back in 2000. When you think about it, that is saying something. My favorite media series ever was MASH, which fizzled out after eleven years. Seinfeld was groundbreaking and hilarious, but lost ground after seven seasons and went under after nine. Tom's Clancy's Jack Ryan series smolders on but lost its zip somewhere between The Sum of All Fears and Debt of Honor.
So what is it about the Gabriel Allon series that sets it apart, and gives it such great staying power? To my mind it is the characters he creates; if there is an author who makes better characters--more real, more memorable, more available to the reader--I haven't discovered him/her yet. Moreover, no one does a better job of using them, in their usual roles, yes (such as Eli Lavon being called upon for surveillance) but in new ones as well. In The English Spy, the former SAS soldier and now mercenary for hire Christopher Keller once again pairs up with Allon, but in a new paradigm from which there is no going back. That's Silva's brilliance in a nutshell, a blend of the new and the familiar, put together with Silva's trademark prose.
No review of a Daniel Silva book could be complete without discussing his prose. Effortlessly glossy, literary and yet still readable at the pace a thriller should go, memorable without being pretentious, and flowing, Silva's prose is unequaled.
If there is a criticism of Silva--and that is a big if--some reviewers do complain he is too formulaic. And although I get what they are referring to, let me say this: seven out of his last eight books reached #1 on the NYT Bestseller lists. (And the off one reached #2.) If your formula is memorable characters, crisp prose, genuine dialogue and superb plotting, you stay with it.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the series, Gabriel Allon is a art restorer who has been recruited by the Mossad to be an assassin. Allon is guided by his boss and mentor Ari Shamron, Israel's avenger since Israel's independence was declared in 1947. In the subsequent years (and volumes of the series) Shamron and Allon have waged their secret war against the whole gamut of the enemies of the State of Israel: Islamic terror groups of every shape and size, exiled Nazis, the Russian mob, and the IRA. But the years have gotten to Shamron (something his enemies were never able to do to) and Allon the protege must become Allon the mentor. Enter Keller, the man who had been hired hired to kill Allon, who now risks his life to save Allon's. The English Spy is more than a first-class thriller by the preeminent name in spy fiction, it is a changing of the guard, and Silva manages to narrate it with the deftness and the soft touch we have come to expect.
If you haven't read any of the Allon series yet, get The Kill Artist and the next three or four books, take a week off work, and escape into a world of terror, intrigue, and the best prose in any genre, including literary fiction. Silva is really that good. And in case, like me, you have read all fifteen, The Black Widow is coming out next month (June 2016) and is available for pre-order now.
Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include THE INTERN, a novel based loosely on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Here, the literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of three tribes on Triberr, The Big Thrill, Fiction Writers and The Book Shelf. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at email@example.com.