Tuesday, March 27, 2018

“House of Spies” by Daniel Silva – Destroyer of the West

House of Spies by Daniel Silva (Book cover)

Daniel Silva's Legendary Spy Returns

A great deal of authors have made a name for themselves writing thriller series centred on one character, taking them from one worldly location to the next as the books expand further and further. Unfortunately, for many of these writers the quality of the series begins to dip exponentially once they get far enough to run out of ideas, and ultimately fans consider only the first few books worthy of attention. It's a fate that befell far too many people, but Daniel Silva has managed to avoid it with grace and dignity as he published the seventeenth book in the Gabriel Allon series titled House of Spies, without losing a single step from his earlier days. For those unfamiliar with him, Gabriel Allon is an Israeli master spy as well as an art restorer (even heroes need hobbies) whose life essentially consists of stopping an endless stream of terrorists from destroying the world.

In this latest book things open on a terrorist attack on London's West End, one that marks the city in death and chaos. What's worse, those responsible have seemingly moved mountains to ensure the secrecy of the operation... but the more complex a system is, the more likely something is to go wrong... and that's more than enough for Gabriel and his team. Following the trail of clues they end up face to face with Jean-Luc Martel and Olivia Watson, the former an extremely wealthy drug dealer and the latter his wife who pretends she doesn't know about her husband's business. As it happens, Martel has arrangements with the man Allon is searching for, and so an uneasy alliance is formed as the strange pair turn from villains into heroes in the never-ending war against terror.

Just as a disclaimer, this is the kind of book series you can pick up in any order you wish to as at most you are going to miss a few references or character developments that don't really impact the story in any way.

Another Wild Hunt

Daniel Silva's Gabriel Allon series has always been about the action, the globetrotting hunt for a secretive enemy that works from the shadows... the chase before the catch if you will. House of Spies is no exception I find as it sucks you in right from the start by plopping you down into the centre of the action barely giving you any time to react. The ride starts wildly from the very start and barely lets up for a second, each one of them a welcome breather from the insanity of the chaos occurring around. Once again we get to quickly travel around the world to all the exotic locations we could dream of, from the picturesque beauty of Saint-Tropez in southern France to the arid dangers of Casablanca. This constant change in scenery does a good job of keeping the action feeling fresh and the sources of danger unknown.

The story is told from multiple perspectives and each one adds some new elements to the story while constantly moving it forward. I found virtually all of the perspectives enjoyable, and I even found myself wanting a more equal distribution of the narration amongst the other characters surrounding Gabriel Allon, who as you might expect still owns the lion's share of the spotlight. The villain also doesn't disappoint as we get to feel his immense power and cunning malice right from the start, although I will say that by the end of it he does start to feel a bit less menacing and slightly more generic than I'd like. It doesn't detract much from his character however and is something I found quite easy to deal with.

The Intrigue of the Chase

This book is certainly home to many action scenes, all of them written with commendable vividness and evocative imagery that grabs hold of you and clutches until the battle is over. The violence, chaos and carnage feel all too real and won't leave you anytime soon, perhaps even pushing you to think about recent events in the real world. I found the character of Keller to be especially interesting to follow when it comes to the action as every scene involving this violent tornado of a man immediately cranked up in intensity by a hundred.

At the same time, this story is far from being a vehicle to drive us from one brainless shootout to the next. On the contrary, Silva meticulously paced the plot and the action to fit in investigative segments in-between that maintain our interest and move the story along in a logical and believable way. While I will say that the twists and turns aren't exactly difficult to see coming (especially if you've been a reader of the genre for a while now), their predictability only barely impacts the enjoyment you'll get out of this ride. When we pick up the book we already know that the bad guys will get caught and the good guys triumph... that's more or less a given. The interesting part becomes to see how said victory is achieved, the great intrigue that comes along with a chase holding the highest stakes imaginable.

The Final Verdict

To close the show, House of Spies is yet another excellent spy thriller by Daniel Silva and adheres to the high standards set forth by the Gabriel Allon series so far. It's yet another thriller of a ride around the globe to catch a despicable and dangerous terrorist you can probably finish in a night or two. If spy thrillers are your thing, then this book will definitely be up your alley.

Daniel Silva

Personal site

Daniel Silva is an American author renowned for his numerous espionage and thriller novels. His first publication was made back in 1996, The Unlikely Spy, and became a New York Times bestseller, launching off his career. He is the recipient of the 2007 Barry Award for Best Thriller for writing The Messenger, and in 2009 was appointed to as part of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Council.

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