Covert action more le Carré than Ludlum.

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PORTRAIT OF A SPY

Gabriel Allon can scrape away at all that obscures to uncover reality, whether the shadows are blemishes on a Titian masterpiece or the secrets of a maniacal terrorist.

Allon retired from a covert unit of Israel’s intelligence service, the Office. He now restores art, a benign profession he practices in England. Accompanied by his wife, Chiara, also an Office veteran, Allon is visiting London to examine a painting in need of his expert touch. On a busy street, the ever-alert Allon notices a man acting suspiciously and attempts to intervene. But the police see Allon draw a weapon and tackle him instead of the terrorist bomber. The deadly explosion is one in a series orchestrated by Rashid al-Husseini, a brilliant propagandist, and Malik al-Zubair, a bloody radical who learned to kill in Iraq. Allon is soon drafted into an effort to neutralize al-Husseini by his former compatriots at the Office. The Israelis are cooperating with the CIA, the agency duped by al-Husseini—think Anwar al-Awlaki—before he slipped into the jihadist movement. Silva’s (The Rembrandt Affair, 2010, etc.) narrative is linear, moving from London to Paris to Washington and into the deserts of the Middle East. The most affecting character is Nadia al-Baraki, wealthy daughter of Abdul Aziz al-Baraki, an ally of the House of Saud, and a financier who funneled money to the jihadists. Nadia loved her father deeply, not realizing he supported Wahhabi fundamentalism, the sort of religious extremism that resulted in her closest childhood friend being victim of an "honor killing." Nadia learns that Allon is the agent who assassinated her father, but she decides to enter into the complicated plot to kill Malik al-Zubair and to destroy al-Husseini’s movement. Other characters verge on cliché, although they are fittingly intriguing for the genre. Gadgets, back-stabbing machinations and political duplicities lend an aura of realism to the intricate plot.

Covert action more le Carré than Ludlum.

Pub Date: July 19, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-207218-4

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

THE SILENT PATIENT

A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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