Portrait of a Spy (Gabriel Allon #11) by Daniel Silva
Publisher: HarperCollins/Feb. 2012
Kind thanks to HarperCollins for providing a review copy
It was supposed to be the start of a pleasant weekend in London for master art restorer and spy Gabriel Allon and his wife, Chiara. But a deadly pair of bombings in Paris and Copenhagen has already marred this lovely autumn day. Then, before he can stop a man he suspects is about to launch a third attack in Covent Garden, Gabriel is knocked to the pavement—and he can only watch helplessly as the nightmare unfolds.
The haunting memory of his failure to stop the massacre of innocents is still fresh when Gabriel is summoned to Washington—and plunged into a deadly confrontation with the new face of global terror. An elusive American- born cleric in Yemen—once a paid CIA asset whom Allah has granted “a beautiful and seductive tongue”—stands at the center of the explosive plague of death and destruction. And the worst is yet to come . . .
Portrait of a Spy is my first book by Daniel Silva and is the 11th in the Gabriel Allon series. That really wasn’t a problem for me, though, since the author is very good at getting you up to speed without infodump, inserting little background snippets throughout the story. Speaking of story… The story begins with the determined retirement of Israeli intelligence operative Gabriel Allon with his lovely wife Chiara, which is thwarted with three suicide bombings in very public places throughout Europe. Our hero, Gabriel, happens to notice the third bomber and tries to take him down, but is thwarted, resulting in the deaths of 18 people. Other than the obvious horror of this, there’s another reason that Gabriel takes this kind of thing very personally, and he finds himself sucked into the search for the terrorist behind these attacks.
As a fan of the Bourne movies, and also of Nelson DeMille’s novels, I was pretty sure I’d like this book, but I couldn’t have predicted just how much I’d like it. Gabriel is the strong, man of few words type, and although I would have liked to see more of his wife, Chiara, you get the sense she’s always on his mind, and she’s also a formidable asset to the Israeli intelligence community. The race to find this terrorist mastermind is full of twists and turns, and the manipulations of the CIA and various other agencies, will keep you riveted, as will the various personalities of Gabriel’s team.
Like I said, this is #11 in a series, so I know there’s lots of history I’ve missed, but the author does his best to immerse you in the events at hand, and let you in on enough that you really don’t feel left out, although you’ll want to go back and start from book 1 if this is your first one as well (I know I do.) My favorite character, aside from the enigmatic Gabriel, is the lovely Nadia, who’s Saudi Arabian father had the blood of many on his hands, and is the head of his vast fortune since his murder when she was a child. She’s been covertly trying to right his wrongs since that very day, using said vast fortune to that advantage, and is recruited by Gabriel’s team to take down the terrorist responsible for the bombings. She’s a fascinating woman, and reading about what women in that part of the world have to endure will endear her to you, in spite of her vast wealth. If you love this kind of stuff (and I do), and you enjoy just plain good writing, with lots of subtle, nuanced characterizations, you’ll really enjoy Portrait of a Spy, and you’ll be turning the pages late into the night to find out what happens. The author juggles multiple players without tangling threads and manages a lot of detail without confusing the reader. This one’s not to be missed for thriller fans!