The book, House of Spies by Daniel Silva contains a classic spy story with a plot as twisted as the highways through the south of France and the narrow ways in the souks of Morocco. Gabriel Allon is the lead spy in House of Spies, and he has been featured in a previous Silva novel, The English Spy. Allon is a genius at putting together successful operations when ordinary security methods have failed.
He calls in a team of very effective, if reluctant, operators who are not full-time spies. They are tied to him for reasons that are personal (he saved them from a previous, possibly life-ending fate.) Allon knows the heads of government spy networks all over Europe – in this case, England, America, and France. He is also unusual because he heads Israeli security operations.
Saladin is a terrorist/drug supplier (an unusual combination for a Muslim if he is one) who has been very successful at hiding any details which might allow authorities to track his location. Engaging in very few face-to-face contacts by conducting most of his business through intermediaries, and changing his appearance if he feels exposed have sufficed to keep him out of the shared national security data banks.
Gabriel calls on Christopher Keller, who has worked with him before and who is a very talented assassin. Keller has found a way to live a private and satisfying life on the island of Corsica which is controlled by a mafia-style “don” who is fond of and loyal to “family” and who considers Keller a family member. Keller is someone who once led an underground operation in Ireland against the IRA where he connected with Gabriel Allon.
Choosing to listen to this book rather than read it was a big mistake for me. The plot is almost byzantine and I am not, apparently, a good listener. I’m not as used to processing words aurally as visually, but I still managed not to miss much (only caught myself napping twice). The careful, but lengthy preparations lead to a messy and almost disastrous end to this operation.
If you are a fan of nonstop action, and I believe I have made this point before, Silva is possibly not your man. Once again he has written a spy tale that is more brainy than adrenaline-filled. However it is memorable.