A captivating spy tale, historically astute and morally nuanced.

MIRAFLORES

MEMOIR OF A YOUNG SPY

In this novel, a newly minted CIA operative is sent undercover to Panama at the height of the Cold War.

When Nick Haliday was a senior in high school, his mother, Margaret, an alcoholic and “profoundly unhappy and ill” woman, committed suicide, a dark moment that weighs on his soul like a heavy stone. Nick’s relationship with his father, Phil, is emotionally “moribund.” After Nick graduates from college, he joins the CIA, a decision meant to anger Phil, a high-ranking official at the State Department who loathes the spy agency. Phil ominously warns Nick about his unscrupulous new employer: “ ‘Here goes: Don’t believe a goddamn thing the agency tells you. If you assume they’re lying to you each step of the way, then you’ll come out in one piece. Otherwise,’ he shook his head, ‘you’re cooked.’ ” In 1958, the Cold War is well under way, and the agency is obsessed with Marxist agitation against American interests all over the globe. Nick is sent to Panama disguised as an English professor—a “goddamn left-wing, beatnik, commie American”—in order to infiltrate insurrectionist groups intent on a liberation from American occupation and looking to wrest control of the Panama Canal, which includes the Miraflores Locks. Yocum furnishes a chilling depiction of the CIA’s remorseless zealotry, a macabre combination of moral nihilism and jingoism. Nick falls in love with one of his students, Maria Santiago, a “startlingly attractive young woman” involved in protests, a romantic entanglement that complicates both his mission and his commitment to it. The author poignantly captures the miasma and moral bewilderment of a tumultuous time as well as the despair that leads Nick to become a willing participant in deeds of which he will never be proud. This is a mesmerizing story, full of artistic restraint and yet unflinching.

A captivating spy tale, historically astute and morally nuanced.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-9978708-7-9

Page Count: 248

Publisher: KDP

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2020

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Engaging and deftly paced, another thoughtfully entertaining summer read from Silva.

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THE ORDER

A legendary spy takes a vacation—or tries to, anyway—in Silva’s 20th Gabriel Allon novel.

Gabriel is trying to enjoy some rest and relaxation with his family in Venice when he learns that an old friend has died. As it happens, this old friend was Pope Paul VII, and it’s not long before Allon is summoned by the pontiff’s personal secretary. Archbishop Luigi Donati has reason to believe that the Holy Father did not die a natural death. For each of the past several summers, Silva has delivered a thriller that seems to be ripped from the headlines. This latest book feels, at first, like something of a throwback. Palace intrigue at the Vatican might seem quaint compared to Islamist extremism or Russia’s rise as an international influence, but Silva makes it relevant and compelling. Allon discovers that the most likely culprits in the death of the pope are connected to far-right leaders throughout Europe, and the rediscovery of a lost Gospel sheds new light on Christian anti-Semitism. The villains here are Catholic traditionalists—Silva’s imaginary Paul VII looks a lot like the real-life Francis I—and “populist” politicians who appeal to nativist, anti-globalist sympathies. As Silva looks at European contempt for a new wave of immigrants from Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, he finds a model for this xenophobia in ancient hatred of the Jewish people, an antipathy that has its roots in the New Testament. He interjects a few Bible studies lessons and offers a bit of history as background; these passages add depth without impeding the forward momentum of the plot. Readers familiar with this series may notice the evolution of a motif introduced a few novels ago: In the world of Gabriel Allon, the United States has receded from relevance on the world stage.

Engaging and deftly paced, another thoughtfully entertaining summer read from Silva.

Pub Date: July 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-283484-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A compulsively readable account of a little-known yet extraordinary historical figure—Lawhon’s best book to date.

CODE NAME HÉLÈNE

A historical novel explores the intersection of love and war in the life of Australian-born World War II heroine Nancy Grace Augusta Wake.

Lawhon’s (I Was Anastasia, 2018, etc.) carefully researched, lively historical novels tend to be founded on a strategic chronological gambit, whether it’s the suspenseful countdown to the landing of the Hindenberg or the tale of a Romanov princess told backward and forward at once. In her fourth novel, she splits the story of the amazing Nancy Wake, woman of many aliases, into two interwoven strands, both told in first-person present. One begins on Feb. 29th, 1944, when Wake, code-named Hélène by the British Special Operations Executive, parachutes into Vichy-controlled France to aid the troops of the Resistance, working with comrades “Hubert” and “Denden”—two of many vividly drawn supporting characters. “I wake just before dawn with a full bladder and the uncomfortable realization that I am surrounded on all sides by two hundred sex-starved Frenchmen,” she says. The second strand starts eight years earlier in Paris, where Wake is launching a career as a freelance journalist, covering early stories of the Nazi rise and learning to drink with the hardcore journos, her purse-pooch Picon in her lap. Though she claims the dog “will be the great love of [her] life,” she is about to meet the hunky Marseille-based industrialist Henri Fiocca, whose dashing courtship involves French 75 cocktails, unexpected appearances, and a drawn-out seduction. As always when going into battle, even the ones with guns and grenades, Nancy says “I wear my favorite armor…red lipstick.” Both strands offer plenty of fireworks and heroism as they converge to explain all. The author begs forgiveness in an informative afterword for all the drinking and swearing. Hey! No apologies necessary!

A compulsively readable account of a little-known yet extraordinary historical figure—Lawhon’s best book to date.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-54468-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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