Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Review of "The Black Widow" by Daniel Silva

In the last few 'Gabriel Allon' books the Israeli agent has been preparing to take charge of his country's spy agency, 'The Office.' Gabriel's just about to start the top job when ISIS terrorists stage horrific attacks in France and Belgium. Several Israeli citizens, as well as Gabriel's friend Hannah Weinberg, are among those killed in France. So Gabriel postpones his promotion (once again) to chase down 'Saladin', the ISIS mastermind who planned the bombings.

To get close to the elusive Saladin, Gabriel has to insert an agent deep into ISIS - a very difficult task. To accomplish the feat Gabriel recruits Dr. Natalie Mizrahi, a French-born physician who emigrated to Israel. Natalie - who speaks French, English, and Arabic - is given the secret identity 'Dr. Leila Hadawi', a woman of Palestinian ancestry.

As Leila, the new agent works as a doctor in a Muslim neighborhood in France. She also cruises ISIS sites online, claiming to want revenge against the western murderers who killed her fiance. After a few months ISIS recruiters approach Leila, and she agrees to work for the Caliphate. This is when the REALLY dangerous part of Natalie's assignment begins.

The ISIS headhunter arranges for Leila to take a month-long vacation in Greece. After a couple of days, however, Leila is spirited off to Syria - where she's interrogated by a top ISIS official. Apparently passing muster, Leila starts training to be an ISIS terrorist. Meanwhile, she keeps her eyes and ears open for information about Saladin.

The rest of the story plays out with plenty of suspense, tragedy, and a teeny bit of romance.

If you're familiar with previous stories in the series - which usually involve people running all over the world assassinating enemies - this book takes a different tack. A large portion of the narrative describes Natalie's training to be an operative. By the end I almost felt I knew how to be a spy myself (though I'd never in a million years have Natalie's courage).

I enjoyed the book but - to be honest - I prefer the earlier Gabriel Allon tales where he's more involved in the action. Still, this is a good thriller with a minor cliffhanger ending. I look forward to the next book.

Recommended to readers who like espionage stories, especially fans of Gabriel Allon.

Rating: 3.5 stars

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