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Wednesday, July 19, 2017


5 stars out of 5

Can it really be true that this the 17th book featuring Israeli secret agent Gabriel Allon? Pretty much from the beginning he has held the No. 1 spot on my list of favorite mystery/thriller "heroes." Every spring I start salivating in anticipation of a new installment, so of course I was delighted to get my hands on this one. 

That many books over the years also brings anticipation of a different sort: How much longer can Gabriel - now chief of Israel's hush-hush intelligence agency, replacing the crusty Uzi Navot (who still holds court in an office across the hall from Gabriel) - keep going? Rumors of his in-print "death," in fact, have been swirling online ever since MGM Television announced adaptation rights to the series (with author Daniel Silva and his wife, CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel, as executive producers). Everything appears to be a go at this point and who will play the role of Gabriel is at the discussion stage. For the record, after cringing at the choice for the lead in Lee Child's Jack Reacher TV series, I'm trying my damndest to remain optimistic (yet relieved to know Tom Cruise is already taken).

But the fact is, despite being the late-in-life father of twins with his beautiful and much younger wife, Chiara, Gabriel's getting a bit long in the tooth. And as chief, he's really not supposed to be running around in a field that has become ever more dangerous with the onslaught of ISIS. But difficult times call for difficult decisions; and it is recent, devastating ISIS "suicide warrior" attacks in London's West End, instigated by one of Gabriel's arch-enemies, that pulls him away from his desk and onto dusty roads of countries like Morocco (where they stay in a safe house dubbed the "House of Spies"). Gabriel has a personal score to settle with the man, known only as Saladin - and despite advice (make that warnings) to oversee the chase to find him from a safe room on King Saul Boulevard in Tel Aviv, Gabriel vows that Book of Romans notwithstanding, vengeance will be his alone.

Still, Gabriel isn't quite as physically active as usual; and much to my disappointment, Chiara doesn't play much of a role here. Other women from Gabriel's past do feature prominently, though including the doctor who nursed Saladin back to near-perfect health in the previous book. Also front and center here is Olivia Watson, a former fashion model and live-in lover of uber-wealthy Jean-Luc Martel, whose money is derived mostly from the drug market. Once it is determined he and his JLM empire are linked to Saladin, Gabriel - together with corresponding agencies in France, Great Britain and the United States join forces (headed up, after heated debate, by the Israelis) to turn the businessman and his lover against the man behind it all. Also recruited to the team because of his tracking and assassination skills is Gabriel's friend from past adventures Christopher Keller, who, as usual, excels at his trade and is quite an interesting character in and of himself.

Needless to say, it's a complex plot that takes a weary Gabriel practically all over the world and back, putting his life is in danger more than once. From start to finish, everything is described in Silva's matter-of-fact, almost understated fashion, but make no mistake - there's plenty of action here. There's also an abundance of history, which is another of the reasons I love this series. Much of those insights come from the author's extensive research which, together with his talent for creating intricate, intriguing stories, makes an unbeatable combination. 

House of Spies by Daniel Silva (Harper, July 2017); 549 pp.

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