Covert action more le Carré than Ludlum.

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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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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POP GOES THE WEASEL

After a flight in fantasy with When the Wind Blows (1998), Patterson goes to ground with another slash-and-squirm psychokiller page-turner, this one dedicated to “the millions of Alex Cross readers, who so frequently ask, can’t you write faster?” By day, Geoffrey Shafer is a charming, 42-year-old British Embassy paper-pusher with a picture-perfect family and a shady past as an MI-6 secret agent. Come sundown, he swallows a pharmacy of psychoactive pills, gulps three black coffees loaded with sugar, and roams the streets of Washington, D.C., in a battered cab, where, disguised as a black man, he rolls dice to determine which among his black female fares he—ll murder. Afterwards he dumps his naked victims in crime-infested back alleys of black- slum neighborhoods, then sends e-mails boasting of his accomplishments to three other former MI-6 agents involved in a hellish Internet role-playing game. “I sensed I was at the start of another homicide mess,” sighs forensic-psychologist turned homicide-detective Alex Cross. Cross yearns to catch the “Jane Doe murderer” but is thwarted by Det. Chief George Pittman, who assigns sexy Det. Patsy Hampton to investigate Cross and come up with a reason for dismissing him. Meanwhile, Cross’s fiancÇe is kidnaped during a Bermuda vacation, and an anonymous e-mail warns him to back off. He doesn’t, of course, and just when it appears that Patterson is sleep-walking through his story, Cross nabs Shafer minutes after Shafer kills Det. Hampton. During the subsequent high-visibility trail, Shafer manages to make the jury believe that he’s innocent and that Cross was trying to frame him. When all seems lost, a sympathetic British intelligence chief offers to help Cross bring down Shafer, and the other homicidal game-players, during a showdown on the breezy beaches of Jamaica. Kinky mayhem, a cartoonish villain, regular glimpses of the kindly Cross caring for his loved ones, and an ending that spells a sequel: Patterson’s fans couldn’t ask for more.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-69328-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1999

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