Review: House of Spies

By | July 14, 2017

The British prime minister owed his career to him; the pope, his life. Even so, he was not the sort of fellow to shamelessly collect on an old debt. The truly powerful man, said Shamron, never had to ask for a favor.

aka Gabriel Allon takes on Morocco.

Aside from the typical concern for Gabriel Allon and his team, there was some anxiety leading up to the release of House of Spies on my end. I was going to be traveling to Montreal on business and would a Kindle pre order automagically arrive on my Kindle at the stroke of midnight on July 11? When I fell asleep, it hadn’t. Probably better for my sleep. The first thing I did when I woke to go for a run was check. It was there! Not that I could start it until my flight that evening, but I was thrilled to know it was there.

Waiting and I do not get along well. Two nights I had to lock this in my mailbox (down 64 stairs) so I could sleep. Luckily I had some long subway rides and two bus trips to give me reading time. I really do miss Friday night Harry Potter releases where I could do nothing but read those weekends.

the only down side of Daniel Silva’s release day is you know you’re 364 days from the next one. Did I mention I don’t do waiting?

On to the book…

There was a new President in Washington, but Saladin was still there and in Europe wreaking havoc wherever he and his disciples went. Finding and taking him down brought Allon and team to the south of France and Morocco. With the south of France of course comes the return of Christopher Keller–and how on earth did it take me this many books to take note of that name when I love Oz‘s Chris Keller.

I really wish the Kindle edition of this book came with a map because I don’t have a good visual map of the south of France and Corsica and I think that might have helped. As always though, Silva brought the places to life as much as his human characters and I have an itch to visit the region now – ideally when the likes of Jean-Luc Martel and friends are gone.

Chiara was nearing forty now, but neither time nor the intense stress of Gabriel’s work had left a mark on her face. In it Gabriel saw traces of Arabia and North Africa and Spain and all the other places her ancestors had wandered before finding themselves in the ancient Jewish ghetto of Venice.

For some reason, I was surprised to read that Chiara was only “nearing forty”. It makes sense in that she just gave him twins, but for some reason I had her pegged as older. I think because I see these stories in book release time, although I know they aren’t. While I’m glad she’s safe and not at risk as she was in The Defector and Moscow Rules when I’d have walked away if he’d killed her, I miss Chiara in the field. I miss her watching Gabriel’s back and I was glad to see her make a few cameos. She’s such a good character and, with Shamron, the only one Gabriel can talk to so I miss that insight into his mind.

I like that Silva reminded us that Shamron, like Israel, is eternal. I found myself worrying less about his and Chiara’s safety. Silva’s own comments make me think Allon is more than a little autobiographical and I don’t think we’ll see Allon killed. I also found myself missing Leah this book – related to the lack of time spent in Israel.

A curious coincidence while reading this book, the Museum of Jewish Heritage opened Operation Finale about the capture and trial of Eichmann. It’s an exhibit that was originally staged in the Mossad (aka The Office)’s building before moving to the Knesset around the trial’s anniversary. For its American tour, they’ve added some background on Eichmann for unfamiliar audiences. It’s made up of a lot of formerly classified information, including his SS and Mossad files. The curator was a former Mossad agent. Amazing show. Great writeup here.

“…coerced asset can never be fully trusted. Inevitably, he will attempt to find some way to repay the injustice visited upon him, and he can be controlled only so long as his original sin remains a threat to him. Therefore, asset and handler invariably find themselves entangled in a love affair of the damned.”

This was early, but you somehow knew Jean-Luc was going to burn them. Even they knew it. But you didn’t know when and some of that was fun guessing. My one complaint was that there were so many characters related to JLM that it was hard to track them all and I found myself a little confused. I will also never look at oranges the same way again.

I found myself worried about the jinns. Not because I believe in Arabian demons, but because Silva focused so much on them. Even Gabriel was worried and I found myself wondering if that was some foreshadowing. I was especially concerned when all had survived the raids in the desert and the house, but then Keller and Gabriel were in Westminster and had a terrorist with a dead man’s switch. Keller has grown on me and I didn’t want to see him gone – and I was afraid he’d have Saladin kill Natalie. Glad the jinns were more than a bit of misdirection.

All in all a really good read. Already antsy for the next iteration, though I hope he takes a break from ISIS. Reading is my escape. I don’t need the news in my escapism. I liked though how Silva touched on the artificial lines of Syria and Iraq in Allon’s conversation with Shamron at the end. It’s true, and Prisoners of Geography is still on my mind with that. While I don’t think the Caliphate will redraw them in any meaningful way, I think the middle east of future generations will look different to today’s just as today’s looks different to a hundred years ago.

Random notes:

  • like with English Spy, I miss Israel and Italy. I enjoyed the south of France, but I miss Israel and Italy. I hope a later book brings Allon back home.
  • While I don’t think there’s too much Keller, I’m leaning more toward wishing he had his own series. We’re not losing Gabriel, we’re losing the rest of his team. I hope his comment about writing two comes to fruition one day.
    • I like Chris Keller, Silva describes Mikhail as Gabriel without a conscience, but I actually think that’s Keller.
  • Like with Black Widow, it’s a little too close to news. It’s unavoidable, especially with the ramp up of terrorism in Europe. He finished the first draft on the eve of the March Tower Bridge attacks.
  • Yep, he definitely copies and pastes his descriptions. In The English Girl he wrote “They were as close as two spies from opposing services could be, which meant they distrusted each other only a little“. In House of Spies: They distrusted one another only a little. In the espionage trade, that made them the best of friends“.
    • When I reread my review of The English Girl I realized I had thought of Chiara as 40ish then and that we knew Gabriel to be in his 60s, so I’m not sure why I’m so surprised.
    • He still needs a new synonym for ancient. Everything is ancient.

2 thoughts on “Review: House of Spies

  1. Liz Dexter

    I love that you physically had to lock away the Kindle. I don’t have anywhere to do that here, unless I get my husband to hide it or something!

    Reply
    1. cari Post author

      Benefit of living up 64 steps! Downside of zero willpower.
      Normally I’d leave the Kindle at work but I had a long train ride a few times and can’t be bookless.

      Reply

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