THE ENGLISH TEACHER by Yiftach R. Atir

THE ENGLISH TEACHER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An ex-Mossad agent sets off a scramble at the agency when she disappears.

Rachel’s father has died and she’s traveled to London to settle his estate, but her thoughts are filled with melancholy for the relationship the two failed to cement before she left home. When she finds a box of letters from her former handler, Ehud, in which he explains to her father that Rachel is working for Mossad—a detail she was forbidden to share with him herself—she decides she's had enough and vanishes—but only after calling Ehud and leaving him with a cryptic message: "My father died....He died for the second time." Her disappearance sets off alarms in Israeli intelligence circles: although Rachel has been retired for some time, what she knows about Mossad’s operations and key intelligence she developed could be ruinous. They need to find her and find her fast. Ehud and Joe, another retired agent, begin the search for the woman who is wanted “dead or alive,” and, as they continue, Ehud, long in love with Rachel, tells Joe her story. The point of view switches back and forth between Rachel as she pursues her missions and Ehud, who narrates Rachel’s story until this point. While the details of a covert operative’s life and methods are certainly fascinating, Atir’s style is not. Ehud and Rachel share the same voice, rendering the narrative strangely monotonous. It’s not a bad voice, but it never varies, even when the stakes change from forbidden love to a risky maneuver involving biological weapons. Ultimately, Rachel’s life comes across as sad, and she’s painted as capable but damaged. Readers will have to work hard to care about her since there’s little to justify Ehud’s undying love.

Atir appreciates subtle spycraft and knows his business, but this tale is often morose and features a woman who can be less likable than the people she seeks to best in her subterfuge.

Pub Date: Aug. 30th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-14-312918-9
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Penguin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2016




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