The ENGLISH SPY, the latest in the long line of Gabriel Allon mysteries by Daniel Silva centers on a plot to kill the venerated Israeli intelligence operative and art restorer. Allon has numerous enemies, but one in particular is very upset that a plan to get the English Prime Minister to sign over lucrative North Sea drilling rights to a Kremlin owned Energy Corporation has gone array – so revenge is at the forefront. A further inducement to be rid of Allon revolves around the future accession of Israel’s most effective assassin as head of the “Office,” the Jewish state’s intelligence agency. Silva reintroduces a number of important characters from previous books, most important of which is Christopher Keller, a former British SAS agent, now a professional assassin. Keller, who has his own agenda, becomes Allon’s partner in hunting down a number of individuals who are linked to the plot. Because of Keller’s background, Silva will weave the “Irish Problem” into his story as a number of his characters were deeply involved in IRA violence in Northern Ireland.
The story begins as the former princess and recently divorced wife of the future king of England is killed while vacationing on a British yacht. Allon is called in by the Head of MI6, Graham Seymour to uncover the truth concerning the princess’ death. Allon is convinced it is no accident. Israeli intelligence assures him that the chef on the boat, a Colin Hernandez is responsible for the explosion, and it turns out that Hernandez is none other than Eamon Quinn, a former IRA bomber. After peace in Northern Ireland was achieved, Quinn became a free-lancer whose record of employment included; Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Qaeda, and Iranian intelligence. Years earlier the Israelis had offered to kill Quinn, and now Seymour finally takes them up on their offer.
Allon and Keller track Quinn and his accomplice, Anna Huber, a Russian agent trained from her time in an orphanage, until they are led to a bombing at Brompton Road in London. Keller and Allon escape death, but Allon is convinced that the princess’ demise and the bombing are linked in a plot to kill him. From this point on Silva introduces a number of important new characters as he constructs a scenario that has great relevance to the international scene at the time of the book’s release. The Iranian nuclear negotiations are front and center of the story and the policy goals of the United States, Russia, Iran, and Israel are played out in an accurate fashion. Silva maintains the clipped dialogue and sarcastic humor that were on display in his previous work and those new to Silva’s approach will find that they soon will become engrossed in the story. The problem for readers who are familiar with the Allon series is that it seems a bit formulaic as Silva constructs the novel in a somewhat predictable fashion, though the story has a number of surprising twists and turns it does not grab the reader like earlier works.
Allon will stage his own death as a means of catching Quinn and the people who are behind him, resulting in a number of interesting situations. The character development remains strong as we are introduced to Reza Nazari, an Iranian turned Israeli spy who is part of the Iranian negotiating team; Madeline Hart, a former Russian sleeper agent that has come over to the British side; and Alexei Rozanov, an SVR agent who has been dispatched by the Russian “Tsar” to eliminate Allon. Other Allon associates appear including the irascible Ari Shamron, the twice former director-general of Israeli intelligence and Allon’s mentor.
Throughout the novel Silva presents background history of individuals and places, be it a snow covered Vienna neighborhood that the Nazis emptied during the war or description of the lives of his characters, like Madeline Hart who was orphaned almost at birth and trained in spy craft and sexual matters in a Russian orphanage to be used as a weapon against powerful men. Speaking of background history, as the book progresses more and more Allon is convinced that Rozanov and Quinn played a major role in, or actually were responsible for the explosion that killed his son Dani, and resulted in institutionalization of his wife Leah, a number of years before.
Overall, the book is a typical Allon yarn, with some commentary pertaining to the real world of terror and espionage. New readers will be satisfied and will want to move on to the next book in the series, THE BLACK WIDOW, while returning readers might have to think twice.