Circe by Madeline Miller (♦♦♦♦)

Granddaughter of Oceanus, daughter of Titan Helios and sea nymph Perseid, Circe was different from the start. While her siblings discovered their unique gifts very early on and gained their independence—either by claiming their inheritance, like Perses and Aëstes, or by marriage to a wealthy demigod, like Pasiphäe—, Circe remained among her family in the halls of the gods. Her love for young fisherman Glaucus changed everything. Circe used a potion to transform Glaucus into a worthy suitor. Glaucus, seeing his station changed, fell in love with one Circe’s cousins, a sea nymph named Scylla. Out of jealousy, Circe put a potion on Scylla’s bath and, unintendedly, transformed her into a monster. Circe’s confession forced Helios to go to see Zeus, for witchcraft is something that gods fear can tip the balance of power. Zeus declared an eternal banishment for Circe from the halls of the gods to the island of Aiaia.

Exile was not easy but, as Circe learned, it had its advantages; being away f…

Portrait of a Spy by Daniel Silva (♦♦♦♦)

Gabriel is enjoying retirement with Chiara in Cornwall, England. A trip to London for a new painting commission and some R&R takes a wrong turn when two apparently coordinated terrorist attacks take place in two of Europe’s most prominent capitals. During a walk with Chiara in Covent Garden, London, Gabriel spots a possible suicide terrorist—the third of the day—but is prevented by Met police from shooting the suspect. The bomb goes off.

Suddenly Gabriel is swept back to a world he thought he had left behind. To gain some needed equity with the current American administration, Gabriel agrees with Adrian Carter and the president to chase the men responsible for the recent wave of terrorist attacks and execute them. Gabriel brings his old team of Israeli operatives on board.

Gabriel’s team knows a few things before hand. There’s an American born cleric with tenuous links to two of the 9/11 hijackers, who was once a CIA asset and has gone rogue. His “beautiful and seductive tongue” has allowed him to recruit a network of jihadists.

Through research the team learns that the mastermind behind the attacks is a Jordanian extremist “who cut his teeth in Iraq”. There’s a much needed infusion of capital to bring that network to its knees, but whom to trust? Ari Shamron suggests a reclusive heiress “with impeccable jihadists credentials”, linked to Gabriel by blood. She agrees to the task, but in bringing down these men, her life and Gabriel’s will be in danger.

This book is as good as the last two, which I have read, namely The Rembrandt Affair and The Defector. While The Defector is a pure adrenaline rush, this one feels very subdued. In this story, Gabriel’s guilt comes knocking hard; this is the most emotional Gabriel to date, and I’m warming up to him. I also like the dynamics of Gabriel and Shamron’s relationship; the latter doesn’t have to speak to be understood. I’ve said before that the greatest strength of this series is the fine, almost invisible line that exists between fact and fiction; that’s what I like the most. In a quasi non-fictional manner, Daniel Silva exposes the dark secrets of the Arab world.