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 a fascinating 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.

“You are in no position to make demands, Allon. Besides, our laws permit us to lie to infidels when necessary and to take the infidels’ money when it suits our needs. Thirty million dollars will go a very long way toward funding our global jihad. Who knows? perhaps we’ll even be able to use it to buy a nuclear weapon – a weapon we can use to wipe your country off the map.”

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:

“This place has always been an incubator for violent ideologies,” Gabriel said. “Islamic extremism is just the latest virus to thrive in Europe’s nurturing environment.”

Lavon nodded thoughtfully and blew into his hands.

“You know, for a long time after I came back to Israel, I missed Vienna.  I missed my coffeehouses.  I missed walking down my favourite streets. But I’ve come to realize that this content is dying a slow death. Europe is receding quietly into history. It’s old and tired, and its young are so pessimistic about the prospects of the future they refuse to have enough children to ensure their own survival. They believe in nothing but their third-five-hour workweek and their August vacation.”

And, 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 the link below:

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