My current politico-thriller writer of choice is Daniel Silva, creator of the Gabriel Allon series, which I have been rattling through at a cracking pace.  The only trouble with a gripping series such as Mr. Silva’s books is that once started, you don’t pause for breath, nor (in my case) for time to review them.

And so I have stopped reading for just long enough to share with you my thoughts on “The Secret Servant”, the 7th novel in this exciting series.

Yup. Indeed.  6 books read, back to back, without pausing long enough to review them.  Guilty as charged.

What an interesting man Gabriel Allon is.  A spy and and assassin for the Israeli secret service,  Gabriel is Jewish without being overtly religious.  He is Israeli, but a polyglot, at home in much of Europe.  A talented art restorer, he is forever haunted by his own personal horrific backstory (don’t worry, no plot spoilers).

In other words, an interesting, complex figure, but one who still manages to keep a veil of secrecy around him.  We, the reader, instinctively like Gabriel.  We root for him, we worry about him, but yet we do not fully “know” him.

Gabriel’s foe in many of the books is extreme Islam, and there is little point being politically correct or beating about the bush. What Gabriel and the Israeli secret service face seems to be a pretty fair representation of much of what is currently wrecking our world.  Bombs aimed at innocent people, racking up the collateral damage that the hardline extremists we meet, seem to consider of no value whatsoever.  Lives are expendable.


It’s not that the world of Gabriel Allon and the decent, likeable towering figure of Ari Shamron unfairly represents the growing conflict between Judeo-Christianity and militant Islam.  These books are not Israeli propaganda  It isn’t like that at all.  And yet…so many of the plots and terror threats that Gabriel has solved in the books thus far, involve the sort of terror threats that the world today increasingly faces.  And “The Secret Servant” was written in 2007, for goodness sake. So much horror has happened since.  Almost scarily prescient.

Mr. Silva’s books could never be described as light or humorous or frothy.  His stories are of terror and plots and spies and danger, of death and fear.

And yet, I found this excellent novel “blacker” and gloomier than some of its predecessors.  As we travel the road of counter-terrorism in the edgy company of the upright Gabriel, a killer with a very firm conscience and a deep awareness of the rights and wrongs of this world, we sense his growing weariness and occasional disenchantment.  He is heading towards middle-age, he has faced dangers and torture far too many times, and he knows that his life will always be at risk.  He has tackled so many terrorist outfits head-on that he has enemies galore.

Thus it is that the international terror plot that he must unravel and destroy in “The Secret Servant” reveals a frightening world of alienation and radicalisation, of European-born and educated Muslims who hate with a passion and are ready to kill and die for their beliefs.  This picture of Europe being radicalised from within is a deeply disturbing one:

IMG_9421And, I repeat, this book was published in 2007…

Like all its predecessors in this series, “The Secret Servant” is a gripping, often times gory and frightening, and, I must be frank, a disturbing picture of an alienated world.  The old continent has never looked more vulnerable.

This is a page-turner with a long-lasting message.

Highly recommended.

Now you’ve read this review, please go ahead and buy the book. Couldn’t be easier. Just click on one of the links below: 

A LETTER OF MARY by Laurie R. King

Of all the delightful novels in the Mary Russell series, Laurie R. King’s “A Letter of Mary” is perhaps the most tender and romantic, bordering at times on sensuous.  In this book, we see at work the love that unites the young, clever, courageous Mary Russell and her much older, equally clever husband, one Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

The author’s craftsmanship and skill are displayed to dazzling effect in this novel, and from the moment we read the author’s preface, we are plunged headlong into a world of mystery, adventure, suspense, and her trademark inter-mingling of fact and fiction.

Or would that be fiction and fiction ?

What we have to remember, of course, is that Laurie R King is only transcribing manuscripts that she was sent in a trunk, many years earlier – the stage is thus set, and another delicious adventure starts.

This novel takes place entirely in England, though the Palestine Mary and her husband visited in an earlier adventure (“Oh Jerusalem”) is as integral part of the story as is the utterly delightful Dorothy Ruskin, whose brief appearance in the early chapters lights up the book, and drives the mystery from there on.

Mary Russell is as likeable and admirable a heroine as one could wish to meet.

Young, but wise beyond her years. Clever, but rather bored with her arcane academic word at Oxford.  Tall, short-sighted, staunchly independent and feminist, very conscious of her Jewishness in an otherwise era of muscular Christianity, and utterly devoted to her older, and very famous husband.

Mary has to do a lot of detective work on her own in this book, much of it deathly boring, and she bemoans the fact that the writings of Dr. Watson “give the overall impression of the detective leaping into the fray, grasping the single most vital clue in an instant…There is little indication of the countless hours spent in cold, cramped watch…all are passed over with a laconic reference to the passage of time. Of course, Watson was often only brought in at the end of a case, and so he missed the tedium. I could not.”

We encounter a different side of Sherlock Holmes in this novel – he is more openly affectionate towards his delightful young wife, and worries dreadfully about her when she must go into a tricky situation to help with their murder investigation.

There are enough twists and turns in this clever book to keep the reader enthralled, as we encounter the other Mr. Holmes –  the clever brother Mycroft, who blushes easily at some of his young sister-in-law’s teasing, and the young Inspector Lestrade, and a whole host of characters, both savoury and decidedly unsavoury.

Another great read from the pen of a witty, clever author.

Even the title is very clever.

A Letter of Mary (1997) is published by Bantam and the paperback costs $6.99.

Do read the book.  It’s a gem.  If you want to buy it right now, nothing could be easier.  Just click on one of the links below :


Having only recently discovered the wonderful Sherlock Holmes meets Kim whodunnit, “The Game” by Laurie R. King, this reviewer decided to go back to the first book in this eminently readable series, which is actually a series about the gutsy young Mary Russell.

aka Mrs. Sherlock Homes.

In “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice” we meet Mary Russell.  And what  a meeting between one of fiction’s stalwarts and someone who is to become a great fictional heroine, although she doesn’t yet realise it.

A short sighted, half American, partly Jewish, clever teenager bumps into Sherlock Holmes, literally. Mary trips over the recently retired and therefore rather bored and grumpy detective, as she is shortsightedly wandering over the hills near his cottage.

What follows is a clever rendition of the Conan Doyle style, era and characters – with a twist.

And that twist is our intrepid heroine who charms not only Sherlock Holmes but also Dr. Watson, whom she calls Uncle John, and Sherlock’s equally clever brother Mycroft. A slew of exciting adventures take place, from Wales to London to Palestine, and as we follow the progress of Mary, who is tutored by Sherlock during her vacations from Oxford, we watch her develop into a young lady and a formidable foil to her clever mentor.

They are still Miss Russell and Mr. Holmes at the end of this charming book, but we feel we know what will happen, eventually.  The great Mr.Holmes is clearly falling for his sparkling protegee –  as does the reader.

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice is published by Allison and Busby, and the paperback costs £7.99

This book truly is a great read, and is the start of a wonderful series of books, so if you wish to start and order, it couldn’t be simpler.  Just click on any of the links below :