Circe by Madeline Miller (♦♦♦♦)

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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…

The English Assassin by Daniel Silva (♦♦♦♦½)

Gabriel Allon, former Israeli spy and assassin, is secretly commissioned by Swiss banker Augustus Rolfe to restore a Raphael’s in his possession, but when Gabriel arrives to the banker’s villa, he finds him dead. Expertly, Gabriel rushes out of the villa and tries to leave Zurich in the first train out; instead, he is captured by police and interrogated as the main suspect of Rolfe’s murder.

After endless negotiations between Bern and Tel Aviv, Gabriel is released with the condition to never re-enter Swiss soil. Gabriel is picked up by Ari Shamron, who tells Gabriel that the late Rolfe had approached Jewish sources and was willing to say something, only they don’t know what because of his untimely death. Gabriel swears to find out who killed Rolfe and why. Enter Anna Rolfe, the only surviving member of the Rolfe family, Augustus Rolfe’s estranged daughter. With Anna’s help, Gabriel learns that the apparent motive behind the killing is the theft of famous paintings that came into the late banker’s possession during WW II.

During his investigation, Gabriel comes across The Englishman, a former British soldier, long presumed dead, who is now gunslinger for a mysterious organization of Swiss bankers known as the Council of Rutli. With a target on his head, Gabriel will have to protect Anna Rolfe and himself if he is to find out the truth.

The English Assassin is a great follow up to The Kill Artist, in which the exploits of former Israeli spy and assassin Gabriel Allon are introduced. This second installment in the saga is a pure adrenaline ride. Temporarily away from Middle East politics, Silva chooses to focus on the dirty secrets of the old guard of Swiss bankers and the convenient alliance that Switzerland formed with Nazi Germany for mutual benefit. Switzerland provided safekeeping for Nazi looted property from Jews that were sent to their deaths, while Germany benefited from hard currency and arms provided by the Swiss.

The English Assassin is similar in scope to a later chapter in the series, namely The Rembrandt Affair, only after investigating the provenance of a painting and discovering the Nazi connection, The Rembrandt Affair shifts towards contemporary issues such as Iran’s development of centrifuges to process enriched uranium.

I really liked this book, more so than the first installment. Heart pounding suspense and endless twists are the norm in this book. Here Julian Isherwood makes a brief yet relevant appearance. Ari Shamron also plays a pivotal role making Gabriel do things he is reluctant to do, as usual. Gabriel, in the main role, most times alone, sometimes working with a team of trained Israeli operatives, is more determined than ever to find out who is behind the assassination of Augustus Rolfe and to deliver justice to the culprits. We know he survives, the question is how.

Comments

  1. I just now finished this one. I had to keep reminding myself that Gabriel survives because of all the following books, but I do wonder how he can keep up this pace for so many more volumes. Anyway, it was great!

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    Replies
    1. You read the second quite soon! Yes, Gabriel gets battered pretty bad in several books, which I like, because that shows he is more human than many assassins in this type of literature.

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