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The Secret Servantby Daniel Silva
Synopses & Reviews
In Amsterdam, a terrorism analyst named Ephraim Rosner lies dead, brutally murdered by a Muslim immigrant. The Amsterdam police believe the killer is a deranged extremist, but others know better. Just twenty-four hours before, Rosner had requested an urgent meeting with Israeli intelligence. Now it is Gabriel Allon's job to find out what Rosner knew, and when he does, it confirms his worst fears: a major terrorist operation is in the works. But not even Allon could have predicted what it is.
In London, a young woman vanishes. She is the daughter of the American ambassador — and goddaughter of the president of the United States — and the kidnappers' demands are at once horrifically clear and clearly impossible to meet. With time running out, Allon has no choice but to plunge into a desperate search, both for the woman and for those responsible, but the truth, when he finds it, is not what he expects. In fact, it is one that will shake him — and many others — to the core.
Intense and provocative, filled with breathtaking double and triple turns of plot, The Secret Servant is not only a fast-paced international thriller but an exploration of some of the most daunting questions of our time.
"Bestseller Silva's superlative seventh novel to feature Gabriel Allon, 'the legendary but wayward son of Israeli Intelligence,' puts Silva squarely atop the spy thriller heap. When Solomon Rosner, a professor in Amsterdam who's also a secret Israeli asset, is assassinated for his strident reports and articles detailing the dangers of militant Islam within the Netherlands, Gabriel gets the job to clean out the professor's files. In Amsterdam, the Israeli agent and his old partner, Eli Lavon, unearth a plot that leads to the kidnapping by Islamic extremists of the daughter of the U.S. ambassador in London. While most intelligence agencies consider Gabriel persona non grata because of his unorthodox methods and the trail of bodies he leaves in his wake, he once again proves invaluable as he and his stalwart team hunt down some of Israel's-and the world's-most violent enemies. While you don't have to have read the earlier books in the series (The Messenger, etc.), knowing the history of the returning characters adds depth and color to the overall story." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Everyone knows you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but Daniel Silva's new spy thriller, 'The Secret Servant,' makes the temptation pretty hard to resist. Let's start with the stern typography, which would have telegraphed the author's aspirations toward gravitas even if the publisher hadn't chosen a type size for Silva's name that this newspaper usually reserves for... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) the outbreak of major land wars. On the back cover, his glossy author photograph glowers at you with tough-guy, international-man-of-mystery bravado. And the air of menace is heightened by the front jacket's blood-orange color scheme and ominously angled photograph of London's Big Ben, which seems to be threatened by a statue of a horse. You're in the presence, in other words, of Brand Fiction. For those who like this sort of thing, this latest installment in the adventures of Gabriel Allon, 'the legendary but wayward son of Israeli intelligence,' is exactly the sort of thing they'll like. But if you're not one of the converted, you're likely to find the novel something of a drag — largely because Silva can't stop waterboarding readers with a humorless, scolding political agenda. 'The Secret Servant' may well sell a zillion copies, but it'll change zero minds. The book starts with a faintly veiled retelling of the 2004 murder of Theo van Gogh, the Dutch filmmaker and controversialist. Van Gogh is recast here as Solomon Rosner, a brave Dutch sociologist (and part-time Mossad informant) who gets his throat ritually slit for warning in such 'authoritative' books as 'The Islamic Conquest of the West' that waves of Muslim immigrants were on the verge of turning Holland into 'a majority Muslim state' governed as a theocracy under sharia, or Islamic law. As he lies dying alone on Amsterdam's narrow, cobbled streets, he has time for one last thought: that nobody is rushing to comfort him because 'intervention would have been intolerant.' Silva calls this curtain-raising section 'Death of a Prophet.' From here on out, readers receive sneer after sneer aimed at any politically correct knave or lily-livered appeaser who isn't fervently convinced that Europe is this close to turning into a writhing haven of swarthy terrorists. I yield to nobody in my alarm about the menace that al-Qaeda poses, but I'm afraid Silva lost me early on. To be sure, Europe has a very real and very alarming bin Ladenist problem, especially in Britain, but Silva's crude fictional vision of the issue glides pretty close to Islamophobia. This novel never met a Muslim character it liked; even its moderate, telegenic Arab intellectual turns out to be a terrorist mastermind known as the Sphinx who gets his kicks out of pontificating on cable news. Silva scoffs at Tony Blair's counterterrorism record as a 'policy of appeasement' toward 'a gathering storm' (get it?) and has his characters add panicky, unchallenged asides such as, 'Amsterdam was well on its way to becoming a Muslim city.' 'The Secret Servant' has no time for anyone who doesn't see that the barbarians are already inside the gates, and Silva throws countless elbows at liberals (who vent 'Continent-wide indignation over the tactics' that Allon uses), human rights activists and Euroweenies who 'believe in nothing but their thirty-five-hour workweek and their August vacation.' The book's unkind, wit-free tone is partly relieved by a swift-moving, chase-heavy plot. The main gimmick revolves around a joint al-Qaeda operation (with a fictional outfit called Sword of Allah) to both blow up the London Underground and kidnap the daughter of the U.S. ambassador to London. But we never quite learn why al-Qaeda would double its chances of breaching operational security by delegating key aspects of a spectacular plot to another jihadist group. Nor, for that matter, does our supposedly expert guide to the shrouded realms of radical Islam fully explain why the main terrorist cell making trouble for Allon in London is made up of Egyptian nationals hanging out in Britain. If Silva wanted to echo MI5's most dire anxieties, he should have made them homegrown, South Asian emigres in Britain with links to Pakistani jihadists. Some of the action sequences are perfectly diverting, of course. But it's not exactly Graham Greene. We get tired characterizations (was there really no other way to dress a sniveling MI5 official than in a 'Savile Row pin-striped suit'?) and writing that can land with a clunk. A homesick jihadist pines for Cairo and its 'smells both putrid and magical'; we learn that 'billionaires from Colorado did not allow their daughters to be sacrificed on the altar of American foreign policy'(should heiresses from Nebraska worry?); and Allon's love interest lies 'tangled in the blankets next to him like a Greek statue toppled from its plinth.' Worse, the dialogue sometimes sounds as if it were written for Basil Exposition in the Austin Powers movies: 'While I was researching my thesis, I learned that we Dutch have a habit of trying to reach accommodation with murderous ideologies, be it National Socialism or Islamic fascism,' a right-thinking Dutch character gravely explains. But the main problem isn't the forgivable genre lapses but the distinctly nasty undertone, and not just from one gross and implausible torture scene. 'When we are wronged, we must seek revenge,' a former Sword of Allah member tells Allon. 'It is in our culture, our bloodstream.' Call me a Euroweenie, but I can do without that sort of casual ugliness in my light reading, thanks. Of course, it's just popular fiction. But it's Silva who wants to be taken seriously, rather than just to entertain. He wants his plot against Europe to feel real, to warn readers about the clash of civilizations that he's sure is brewing, to evoke the fascinating tradecraft of Robert Littell, John le Carre or David Ignatius rather than a cartoonish showdown between SMERSH and James Bond. But the real experts who write thrillers — former MI5 chief Stella Rimington and former White House counterterrorism czar Richard A. Clarke — have managed to show us a far more accurate portrait of the ground-level battle against al-Qaeda without all the attitude. At one point, a minor character tells Allon, 'But you didn't come to Amsterdam to listen to a lecture by me.' I knew just how the legendary but wayward son of Israeli intelligence felt. Patrick Anderson is on vacation." Reviewed by Warren Bass, a former member of the 9/11 commission and currently deputy editor of The Washington Post's Outlook section, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"The novel's value...is not in the action-packed familiar plot, but in Silva's examination of the West's attempts to deal with Islamic terrorism." San Antonio Express-News
"In Allon and his cadre of fellow Israeli agents, Mr. Silva has created a believable band of brothers." Dallas Morning News
"Daniel Silva provides an engrossing primer on the rise of Muslim extremism in Britain." Orlando Sentinel
"This fast-paced international espionage tale suffers a bit from clichéd prose, but it's compulsive reading nonetheless." Booklist
A terrorist plot in London leads Israeli spy Gabriel Allon on a desperate search for a kidnapped woman, in a race against time that will compromise Allon's own conscience — and life...
About the Author
Daniel Silva is the author of the bestselling novels The Unlikely Spy, The Mark of the Assassin, The Marching Season, The Kill Artist, The English Assassin, The Confessor, A Death in Vienna, Prince of Fire, and The Messenger. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife, NBC Today correspondent Jamie Gangel, and their two children, Lily and Nicholas.
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