This is a tale of espionage involving Israel, Great Britain and the United States. The author does not seem to be a fan of the current political atmosphere under Barack Obama, and he comments on the way Israel is being treated by our government and also on the current Iran talks concerning nuclear weapons, of which he does not seem to approve. Many comments disparage Obama’s rudeness and his disengagement and possible disrespect of the Israeli government. He also comments on aspects of the Israeli and British governments, of which is not enamored.
The novel is read well by George Guidall, with just the right amount of expression. The narrative crosses numerous countries in Europe, as several spy agencies collaborate and try to solve the mystery of what caused an explosion on a yacht carrying a former British princess, the divorced first wife of the heir to the throne. Her mysterious death begins the intrigue, but sub plots within the plot drive the tale further. The twists and turns can sometimes be confusing, so perhaps a print book would be a better choice than the audio version.
In this fifteenth book of the Allon series, Gabriel Allon, future head of The Office, in Israel, is intercepted while on his way to Rome to restore a Caravaggio painting. Graham Seymour, of MI6, had been quietly contacted by Israeli intelligence with information about the assassin, Eamon Quinn, whom they believe was behind the murder of the former princess. Gabriel Allon is considered the one best suited for the task of finding this murderer. With Christopher Keller, a former British agent who is now a paid assassin, the team is assembled to solve the crime and bring the perpetrators to justice. Allon decides to take on the investigation, although his wife, Chiara, is only weeks away from giving birth to their twins. Because he is on the older side now, and more important, because he is soon to be promoted to head Israeli intelligence, it is not really a good idea for him to be involved and put in so much danger, but he makes the decision to join the effort, with his wife’s support, because the search soon becomes personal to him. Allon wants to catch Eamon Quinn. He is a killer for hire. A former member of the IRA, he was in prison when he met Tariq, an Islamic terrorist, a bomb-maker who was having trouble with his timing mechanisms. Quinn taught him how to make a better bomb. He then used his new knowledge to blow up Allon’s car, taking his son Daniel’s life and permanently destroying his first wife’s emotional stability. Allon was supposed to be in that car, but on that day, it was his first wife and son who became the targets instead. This sub plot involves Islamic terrorists, the Palestinian Arabs.
Christopher is willing to return to the intelligence service because for him the capture of Quinn is also personal. Both men, Allon and Keller, had once worked together to take down the IRA. Keller’s girlfriend and son were murdered when his informant turned on him, revealing their whereabouts. Keller and Allon are the two agents best suited for this kind of espionage effort. They are explosive experts. They both knew Quinn, and Keller had once been his prisoner.
On the other side of the coin, for Quinn, it is also personal. He wants to kill both Keller and Allon for the part they played in stopping the IRA and in the murder of many of its members. However, Quinn seems to take pleasure in the killing and the others do not. They are doing a job, while Quinn seems to be enjoying himself and priding himself on his kills.
Allon and Keller follow leads which bring them in contact with Quinn’s Russian accomplice, a young woman who was trained with Madeline Hart, the young Russian spy Allon brought to England. Unknown to them, the beautiful Russian woman they are following is going to plant a bomb. When Quinn leaves a cryptic message, “the bricks are in the wall”, on Allon’s cell phone, they know something terrible is about to happen. The message is proof positive to Allon that the assassin’s identity is Eamon Quinn. Quinn is a master bomb-maker. The bombing of the yacht was for the purpose of fleshing Allon out of the shadows. The Russians are angry with Allon for rescuing their spy, Madeline Hart, and providing her sanctuary in a safe house. The defection humiliated them. The bombing in front of Harrods was Quinn’s next stage which was intended to take out both Keller and Allon.
The plot twists and turns. There are personal vendettas to be resolved and while the book is not rocket science, it is really well written and well researched. It will keep you coming back for more as the tension builds slowly to a crescendo. One thing is important to think about at the end of the book. While it is true that Quinn was a cold blooded murderer as was the female Russian agent he worked with, so also were Allon and Keller. It gave me pause when I considered the thin line that separated the killer who was good and the killer who was evil and the reasons that defined both. Both thought they were working for a good cause, but the goodness seemed to be “in the eyes of the beholder”. Also, the Israelis were depicted as brutal when they questioned prisoners. I wondered if it showed that enhanced interrogation actually worked. Regardless, it seems that everyone involved turned a blind eye to everyone’s violence in the interest of their own cause.