three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
31-Nov-Dec-2007
By: 
Daniel Silva
user_rating: 
0

A-The Secret ServantIsraeli spy and art restorer Gabriel Allon’s latest assignment takes him to Amsterdam to purge the files of a slain Dutch terrorist analyst who monitored a rising Islamic fundamentalist group, the Sword of Allah. Allon, the "secret servant" of the title, soon uncovers the group’s plot to kidnap the daughter of the American ambassador to England. Too late to stop Elizabeth Halton’s kidnapping in London’s Hyde Park, Allon puts his own life at risk. Elizabeth’s kidnappers, meanwhile, demand that a militant Egyptian sheik be released from a U.S. prison. Working with both the CIA and British intelligence, Allon races across Europe to try to save the girl and the day.
Putnam. 385 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 0399154221

Dallas Morning News 4 of 5 Stars
"In Allon and his cadre of fellow Israeli agents, Mr. Silva has created a believable band of brothers, and he quite remarkably does nearly the same with the crew on the other side, beginning with the father of the terrorist leader. … Mr. Silva’s growing mastery of the relation of psychology and narrative suspense and the integration of serious research into the forward flow of the story is also quite evident." Alan Cheuse

Albuquerque Journal 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The tension builds swiftly from chapter to chapter, country to country. And as it happens in many thrillers, the speed and the shoot-’em-up scenes of the unfolding action is reason enough for reading." David Steinberg

 Orlando Sentinel 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Silva proves to be a perfect guide to the dangerous forces that are shaping our world. And amazingly, he does it all without once being a bore." Ann Hellmuth

Los Angeles Times 3 of 5 Stars
"In some dark recesses of our liberal souls, we may secretly approve of [Allon’s] cruelty, even as we publicly deplore the horrors of Abu-Ghraib and Guantanamo. Popular fiction like The Secret Servant, by allowing heroic figures to express our common fears, rationalizes and justifies them—makes them OK to act upon when someone in authority asks us to." Richard Schickel

St. Louis Post-Dispatch 3 of 5 Stars
"Silva has yet to write a boring Gabriel Allon thriller, and The Secret Servant keeps his string intact. … His book has a preachy edge that occasionally intrudes into what is otherwise another dandy action thriller." Harry Levins

Entertainment Weekly 2.5 of 5 Stars
"The novel is unswervingly pro-Israel, shrill about the threat of Muslim immigration to Europe, and contemptuous of ‘quisling’ liberals. This is the stuff of fiery editorials, but heavy-handed novels." Jennifer Reese

Critical Summary

Daniel Silva has created a complex and compellingly flawed hero in Gabriel Allon, who makes his seventh appearance in this edgy thriller (after The Messenger, 4 of 5 Stars Nov/Dec 2006). Though a few reviewers considered the plot somewhat formulaic, most praised the book’s riveting action and edge-of-your-seat suspense. However, they reacted differently to the underlying political themes. While some critics applauded The Secret Servant as a serious exploration of the psychology of radical Islam masquerading as a "blockbuster novel," the Los Angeles Times lamented the "brutalization" of Allon, as well as the insidious demonization of all Muslims. Timely lesson or covert racism? Readers’ enjoyment of this fast-paced thriller may hinge on how they view that question.

First in the Series

The Kill Artist (2000): Former Mossad agent Gabriel Allon has renounced a life of intrigue to pursue a career as an art restorer. When a Palestinian assassin threatens Arab-Israeli peace negotiations, Allon comes out of retirement to settle an old score.