My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I think this is my first official “thriller and espionage” novel. I was first introduced to Daniel Silva by the members of one of my critique groups. Our group of three is one of my driving forces is getting my own story written and proofread. There is myself (the SF/fantasy writer), one who is a fantasy, nonfiction, and philosophy writer, and a mystery writer. They both had nothing by great things to say about Daniel Silva’s books and suggested that I read Portrait of a Spy.
I of course, ordered the audio immediately from the library (there are at least 3 YA novels that I’m trying to read the traditional way right now and it’s taking me a long time). The great thing about the audios is that I can listen to them all the time and I can get through them fairly quickly.
The great thing about Portrait of a Spy was, based off the glowing recommendation, I knew that my husband would enjoy it too. So, when my husband and I began to listening to the book when we’d make long drives in the car or instead of sitting and watching netflix we’d sit and listen to our audiobook. It amused me when my husband go so engrossed in the story that he was like “when can we listen next?”
One of the things I didn’t realize when I first ordered this book is that Portrait of a Spy is book #11 of his Gabriel Allon series. The great part is that it didn’t matter! We got just enough information about all the character that it didn’t matter that neither of us had ever read any of these books before. The great thing too, is that since these books are thrillers and not mysteries, if we go back and read the preceding books, it doesn’t matter.
Terrorism is a very touchy subject and I felt that this book handled the subject quite deftly. You get perspectives of extremism and you also get moderate views. Though the characters don’t always justify their reasons there are those who have very high tolerance and those who have very low tolerance for terrorists and varying view on how to deal with/respond to them. I learned a lot about how certain terrorist acts are handled these days. I really liked the explanation of the terrorist attach at the beginning of the book and why the authorities took the actions they did. You could tell that the author did his research to justify what happened.
The story was complicated and I was excited to learn about all the twists and turns that it took. I loved the hidden jabs that the book took on the US government because a great part of me tends to also have a very jaded view of how bureaucratic our government is. I have some personal experience with that, so I enjoyed many of the subtle and not so subtle jabs.
I found the initial chapter a little slow, but I understood that I was learning about the main characters and what they were all about, so I didn’t mind too much. I think my favorite part about the book was the depth of Gabriel Allon. I found him to be a strikingly complicated character and loved how the author described Allon’s thought processes and rationals. Though I think many people may think of Allon as being too idealistic as a spy, but I actually know people who think as complicated and as quickly as this character does, so I found it very real.
I also enjoyed the character of Nadia al Bakari. She too was a complicated character with divided loyalties. (She’s the heroic Arab character of the story.) You get a glimpse of female Saudi life through her perspective and receive her views on terrorism and Islam and her beliefs that they are not one in the same. She is a powerful, courageous character who does what she can for her people.
I’m not much into giving summaries of stories and in this case it probably wouldn’t really hurt to do so, but I hope I’ve intrigued you enough to consider reading this well written book yourself.