Gabriel Allon Series, No
July 19th, 2011/ ISBN 978-0-06-207218-4
by Elise Cooper
Daniel Silva's latest novel, Portrait of a Spy, is an
exciting, action packed thriller that takes the reader on a journey
through such places as England, Paris, Washington DC, Saudi Arabia,
and New York. It examines the important issues of the day that include
terrorism, the Islamic woman’s plights, and the two faces
of Saudi Arabia. This book shows what a nasty and brutal war this
has been for the last ten years.
The first few chapters explore the possible new terrorist strategy
of multiple suicide bombings that use conventional weapons. They
occur in different European cities for the purpose of creating fear.
Paris was chosen because the facial veil was banned; Copenhagen
because of the cartoons depicting Mohammed; and London because it
has become an easy target. Silva commented that the purpose for
this book is “first and foremost to tell an entertaining story.
I also wanted to take stock of where we stood on the War on Terror
ten years after 9/11. The tally it took on this town (Washington
DC) and the people in the intelligence business.”
He explained that while writing this book “the earth shifted
under my feet: Tunisia falls, then Egypt and we see Saudi tanks
rolling into Bahrain. It was a challenge but also an opportunity
to make the novel about much more than simply terrorism. I referred
to Osama Bin Laden when he began writing the novel. He was alive
and well. While the rest of Washington was stream lining toward
the White House, I was sitting in the middle of the night re-writing
all these passages. I feel confident in saying this is the first
novel dealing with Bin Laden as a deceased person.”
The settings of this book feel like familiar places to the reader
just like, according to Silva, “coming home to your parent’s
house.” However, the plots range from Russian arms dealers,
the Iran-nuclear threat, to the plot in this novel; how a Muslim
woman becomes a martyr by helping an Israeli operative thwart a
In this book the plot is strongly influenced by the characters.
The main male character in his last eleven books is Gabriel Allon,
named after the Archangel. He is a semi-retired Israeli operative
that works closely with the American and British intelligence with
a cover as an art restorer. This character is extremely well developed
and becomes a very likable figure.
The main female character is a moderate Muslim, Nadia al-Bakari,
a Christ-like figure that is a very courageous woman, who wants
to change the Islamic world. Silva commented “Nadia believed
in life, not death and destruction.”
All the characters, including the supporting cast, are well developed.
There is Zoe Reed, a self-described orthodox left-wing journalist,
yet he is still willing to help bring down a terrorist organization
by being a go between. There is also Adrian Carter, a CIA official,
who works closely with Israeli intelligence to prevent terrorist
Silva commented that this character, just as those real CIA officials,
was “put on the coals after 9/11 for defending America. I
am completely opposed and think it outrageous that these people
are targeted for doing exactly what we asked them to do to try to
keep the country safe. Carter represents Langley’s good guys.”
The antagonist is an American cleric living in Yemen, Rashid al-Husseini.
Readers through Silva’s expert pen will have no trouble hating
the terrorist and hoping he gets true justice.
This book is probably Silva’s finest, considering all his
books, are true masterpieces. It is fast paced, insightful, and
a compelling novel. The reader should not pick up this book unless
they have the time to finish it in one sitting, since they will
not want to put it down.