BOOK REVIEW: ‘Portrait of a Spy’: Art Restorer-Spy Gabriel Allon Joins International Search for Terrorist Mastermind

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen

BOOK REVIEW: 'Portrait of a Spy': Art Restorer-Spy Gabriel Allon Joins International Search for Terrorist Mastermind

As I was finishing my reading of the mass market paperback edition of Daniel Silva’s 2011 bestseller “Portrait of a Spy” (Harper, 528 pages, $9.99) (Ouch! I’m getting old: I remember when mass market paperbacks sold for 35 cents, 50 cents, maybe 75 cents for a Mentor) the news of the murderous attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse, France flashed across the world.

Many of useful idiots of the mainstream media immediately assumed it was a neo-Nazi — conveniently ignoring the fact that more than 90 percent of the terrorism attacks in Eurabia are the work of Muslim extremists. When the French police surrounded the suspect’s apartment building, it turned out that 23-year-old Mohammed Merah — struck in the head by a bullet — was a French native of Arab ancestry (Algeria, where the locals really wanted the French settlers to get the hell out. When the Pieds-Noirs left for France, the locals wanted to go there, too). Merah was firing a Colt .45 pistol when he was killed. One of the weapons used in the school attack was a Colt .45 autoloader.

Gabriel Allon, the protagonist of “Portrait of a Spy, would know immediately who was behind the school attack. Making his latest outing in Silva’s page-turning spy/thriller series, Allon knows first-hand who the suicide bombers are and what religion they profess. He’s an expert profiler, with no apologies. Allon now lives in Cornwall with his wife, Chiara. The master art restorer and former Israeli secret agent was hoping to have a pleasant weekend in London, even though the peace of Europe had been shattered by Islamist suicide bombings in Paris and Copenhagen a few weeks before.

Daniel Silva

Daniel Silva

Allon spots a suspicious man in Covent Garden, a very busy part of London. He’s about to take out the man when two men knock Allon to the ground. Seconds later, the man-bomb explodes, killing 18 people and injuring many more. When Allon discusses the events with Graham Seymour of MI5 (the British equivalent of the FBI) during a debriefing he asks Seymour why did they stop him from taking out the suicide bomber. Seymour tells him “Because neither Scotland Yard nor the Security Services wanted a rerun of the Menezes fiasco.”

[From a Google search: Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead on a London Underground train on July 22, 2005, the day after a foiled series of terrorist attacks on London and two weeks after the 7/7 bombings. Trailed by police on his trip from his home in Tulse Hill, which included two bus journeys, de Menezes was followed down the escalator at Stockwell station and shot with minimal warning by firearms officers. The Met’s defense was that de Menezes had been mistaken for terrorist suspect Hussain Osman, who lived nearby.]

The Covent Garden bombing leads to Allon’s being recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency to track down America’s own equivalent of the French Jewish school shooter. Naturally, he insists in bringing in his own team from the “Office” — as the Israeli security agency in Tel Aviv is called, similar to the nickname “The Company” for the CIA.

The relationship between the two agencies is uneasy from the start, with the American president not wishing to hurt the feelings of Muslims, including the supposed allies the Saudis and the Pakistanis, despite the obvious financial support of terrorists by the Saudis and their acceptance by the Pakistanis.

There are many subplots in “Portrait of a Spy” that will sound familiar to those familiar with the past decade’s terrorism attacks and traitors within the CIA and FBI. The main plot involves Allon’s recruiting of the beautiful daughter of a Saudi businessman, who inherited the business after her father is killed in Cannes, France. The target is an elusive American- born cleric in Yemen — once a paid CIA asset whom Allah has granted “a beautiful and seductive tongue.” The CIA once again has been fooled and Adrian Carter, the unorthodox director of the agency’s National Clandestine Service, realizes that Allon’s Israeli team is better poised to find the cleric and neutralize him permanently.

“Portrait of a Spy” is up to the high standards of Silva’s work, which set the bar very high. It’s a page-turner that tells the truth about terrorism.

About the author

Daniel Silva (born 1960) is the best-selling American author of 14 thriller and espionage novels. His most recent novel, “Portrait of a Spy” was published July 19, 2011 and was an instant #1 bestseller. His past three books — “The Rembrandt Affair” (2010), “The Defector” (2009) and “Moscow Rules” (2009) all were #1 New York Times bestsellers. His books are published in more than 30 countries and are international bestsellers. Some of his novels are set against Islamic terrorism, some relate to villains set in Russia, as well as historic events related to World War II and the Holocaust. HIs books feature Gabriel Allon, Israeli art restorer, spy and assassin. In January 2009 Silva was appointed to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s United States Holocaust Memorial Council. Silva, his wife reporter Jamie Gangel, and their twin daughters live in Georgetown. His website:




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