Several days after the events detailed in The Heist, Gabriel Allon is bidding farewell at Rome’s airport to a very pregnant Chiara who is traveling to Israel to give birth there. Gabriel is waiting to restore the Caravaggio painting he just recovered.
Graham Seymour, now head of MI6, travels to Italy to secretly meet with Gabriel to ask him as a personal favor to undertake the hunting and killing of the man who has killed the former spouse of the heir to the British throne, and so the adventure begins.
Gabriel requests assistance from Christopher Keller to catch Eamon Quinn, a former IRA bomb maker, now a hitman to terrorist organizations the world over. Gabriel and Keller are certain that Quinn activated the bomb that killed the princess, but as they say, who paid for it? In other words, who would profit from checkmating the princess?
As Gabriel and Keller follow Quinn’s tracks from St. Barthelemy Island to the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, they come face to face with Keller’s past as an infiltrated ex-IRA man at the service of British military, who endured torture at the hands of his captors, one of whom was Quinn. They will trace Quinn’s whereabouts to Portugal and ultimately England, where they might just lose their lives if a professional assassin has her way.
Just like the Holocaust had its trilogy in The English Assassin, The Confessor, and A Death in Vienna, Christopher Keller has had his own quartet starting with The English Assassin, followed by The English Girl, The Heist, and now The English Spy.
The story that began in The English Girl--a Russian girl indoctrinated at a KGB camp in her childhood and who later emigrated illegally to England with her adoptive parents and became a sleeper agent a-la Salt--finally comes full circle when the primary resident of the Kremlin puts a target on Gabriel's head, and one of his sleeper agents comes to make good on the threat.
Just as The English Girl broke the mold by focusing on an immensely lucrative deal between Great Britain and Russia for oil extraction rights on the North Sea and the subsequent fallout from the defection to UK of a former KGB agent who also happened to be the UK's prime minister's mistress, The English Spy breaks new ground on several fronts: its first part (Death of a Princess) focuses on the tight relationship of Latin America's left with international terrorism, while the rest of the novel follows a former IRA bomb maker who, after the Good Friday Peace Accord, has sold his expertise in the international underground arena to the highest bidder. Also, the crippling effect that IRA's bombings had, not only in the UK, but also in Northern Ireland. Those subjects have been largely ignored by Daniel Silva until now.
I always rely on Daniel Silva to administer me a summer adrenaline shot, and as usual, he doesn't disappoint. The English Spy is as ambitious and deadly in its plot development as Prince of Fire, The Messenger, The Secret Servant, Portrait of A Spy, and The Fallen Angel were before it. In addition, The English Spy benefits from a year filled with news-making headlines, such as the relatively recent surge in conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, and the ensuing ceasefire, the rampant trolling and security hackings of Russia and China to Western firms, the relatively recent and ill-advised nuclear talks between major Western powers (led by the US), Russia, and Iran; and even snow in Jerusalem last winter.
As Gabriel Allon is approaching the beginning of his tenure as chief, it seems that his saga is coming to an end, at least The English Spy seems to hint at it. The exploits that began with The Kill Artist are starting to come full circle as it was the case here when Eamon Quinn, former IRA bomber, wanted to exact revenge on Gabriel for the death of Tariq al Hourani, the man who killed Danny Allon and maimed Leah. Gabriel's exploits on Russian soil have also come to haunt him in The English Spy after he caused havoc in Russia in Moscow Rules, The Defector and The English Girl, so we are left wondering if Daniel Silva is not starting to tie loose ends to end the saga. I'm certainly not ready for that, are you?
‘After that, with the ice having been broken, they fell into an easy conversation of the sort that only two senior spymasters could have. The shared, they divulged, they advised, and on two occasions they actually laughed. Indeed, for a few minutes it seemed their rivalry did not exist. They talked about the situation in Iraq and Syria, they talked about China, they talked about the global economy and its impact on security, and they talked about the American president, whom they blamed for many of the world’s problems. Eventually, they talked about the Russians. These days, they always did.
“Their cyberwarriors,” said Amanda, “are blasting away at our financial institutions with everything they’ve got in their nasty little toolbox. They’re also targeting our government systems and the computer networks of our biggest defense contractors.”
“Are they looking for something specific?”
“Actually,” she replied, “they don’t seem to be looking for much of anything. They’re just trying to inflict as much damage as possible. There’s a recklessness we’ve never seen before.”’ Page 101
“The Arab Spring had turned into the Arab Calamity. Radical Islam now controlled a swath of territory that stretched from Afghanistan to Nigeria, an accomplishment that even Bin Laden would have never dreamed possible. It might have been funny were it not so dangerous—and so utterly predictable. The American president had allowed the old order to topple without a viable alternative in place, a reckless act with no precedent in modern statecraft. And for some reason he had chosen this moment in time to throw Israel to the wolves.” Page 454