The Secret Servant by Daniel Silva (♦♦♦♦)
A famed scholar and Office asset named Solomon Rosner is assassinated in Amsterdam. Gabriel and Eli Lavon are sent there to purge the files of the deceased of possible connections to the Office. The late professor Rosner had been in contact with a well informed source who contacts Gabriel in the middle of the night in one of Amsterdam’s dark alleys. The source, an Egyptian Muslim named Ibrahim Fawaz, points to a terrorist cell whose target may be in London.
Gabriel contacts Graham Seymour of MI5 to relay what he has learned from Fawaz but Graham doesn’t heed the warning and the daughter of the American ambassador to Britain is kidnapped in a savage attack in London’s Hyde Park. Gabriel is too late to stop the kidnapping. A few days later the kidnappers demand the release of a captive Sheikh in American custody, which the president refuses. Running out of time and options, Gabriel enrolls Fawaz in a quest to stop the kidnappers from killing the American woman and when that fails too, he will have to offer himself in return for they are out of time.
I liked this book, though I had to re-start at least twice and always got stuck on page 78. It took me a month to finish but I can finally say it was worth it.
The Secret Servant is no doubt a work of fiction, but unlike its predecessors it has become at least in part a fulfilled prophecy. One of the points in the story is the uneasy alliance between the Egyptian’s governments from the 1970s till this date with the radical factions of Islam. It was pointed out in the book that someday Mubarak’s regime would be removed and replaced by an Islamic republic and that became a reality not long ago. What is uncanny is that Silva spoke about the Islamic Brotherhood as potential successors for Mubarak, among many others no doubt, and that also became true.
In The Secret Servant Gabriel becomes a hostage of jihadists and is brought to his knees by way of beatings and drugs. What makes Gabriel so different from other secret agents in literature is that Gabriel is not a superhero; he is utterly human, he makes mistakes, he gets into sticky situations way too often and has to be rescued by his team, he bleeds and he gets beaten so badly he needs months to recover. In this installment Gabriel questions the morality of the tactics he uses to extract information from his sources and his vulnerability becomes palpable.
Ari is on his slow way to recovery, though he feels he doesn’t have much to live and wants Gabriel to assume the directorship of the Office now that Amos is on his way out. And finally, Gabriel and Chiara get married; I’m so excited!
“Repression breeds radicals…and radicals commit acts of terror.” Page 454
“‘Plan? What plan? You and I could do it in an afternoon.’
‘Weddings aren’t operations, Ari.’
‘Whoever said that?’
‘Of course weddings are operations’…’If I were you, I’d plan the wedding myself and surprise her.’
‘She is an Italian Jew, Ari. She has something of a temper and doesn’t like surprises.’
‘All women like surprises, you dolt.’
Gabriel had to admit he liked the idea. ‘I’ll need help,’ he said.
‘So we’ll get some help.’
Shamron smiled. ‘Silly boy.’” Page 462