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Daniel Silva and The Secret Servant

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Novelist Daniel Silva writes espionage thrillers, the perfect sort of book for airplane travel and summer vacations.

But he is far better than most because not only is he a fine spinner of tales full of tension and plot, but because his point of view on the world is undeniably Zionist and realist.  His most recent novel. The Secret Servant, is relentless not only in its narrative, but also in its communication of the realities of the world in which we live.

The novel opens in Amsterdam, and after a scathing indictment of Dutch policies towards the radical Islamist networks in that country and a conversation inside Israeli security services that includes a scathing review of the botched Hezbollah-Israeli war of the summer of 2006, the novel takes the protagonist, Israeli Gabriel Allon to London for a meeting with MI5’s deputy director general, Graham Seymour:

As Gabriel climbed into the car, Seymour appraised him silently for a moment with a pair of granite-colored eyes.  He did not look pleased, but then few men in his position would.  The Netherlands, France, Germany and Spain all had their fair share of Muslim radicals, but among intelligence professionals there was little disagreement over which country was the epicenter of European Islamic extremism.  It was the country Graham Seymour was sworn to protect: the United Kingdom.

Gabriel knew the crisis now facing Britain was many years in the making and, to a large degree, self-inflicted.  For two decades beginning in the 1980s and continuing even after the attacks of 9/11, British governments both Labour and Tory had thrown open their doors to the world’s most hardened holy warriors.  Cast out by countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria, they had come to London where they were free to publish, preach, organize, conspire and raise money.  As a result Great Britain, the land of John Locke, William Shakespear, and Winston Churchill, had unwittingly allowed itself to become the primary incubator of a violent ideology that sought to destroy everything for which it had once stood .  The British security and intelligence services, confronted by a gathering storm, had responded by choosing the path of accommodation rather than resistance.  Extremism was tolerated so long as it was directed outward, toward the secular Arab regimes, America, and, of course, Israel.  The failure of this policy of appeasement had been held up for all the world to see on July 7, 2005, when three bombs exploded inside the London Underground and a fourth tore a London city bus to shreds in Russell Square.  Fifty-two people were killed and seven hundred wounded.  The perpetrators of this bloodbath were not destitute Muslims from abroad but middle-class British boys who had turned on the country of their birth.  And all evidence suggested it was only their opening salvo.  Her Majesty’s security services estimated the number of terrorists residing in britain at sixteen thousand–three thousand of whom had actually trained in al-Qaeda camps–and recent intelligence suggested that the United Kingdom had eclipsed America and Israel as al-Qaeda’s primary target.

Here on pages 48 and 49 is a brief primer on the sources and extent of the threat the West faces, and the reader hurries through it to get on with the story which is already unfolding rapidly by the time Allon arrives in London.  Again and again Silva includes an aside intended to inform his reader –Hezbollah’s activities in Argentina are extensive, for instance– even as the reader is entertained.

Silva has sold millions of books because they are good.  We should hope that he sells millions more because they are also correct.  If you have time, move through the Allon novels in order:

  • 2000 The Kill Artist
  • 2002 The English Assassin
  • 2003 The Confessor
  • 2004 A Death in Vienna
  • 2005 Prince of Fire
  • 2006 The Messenger
  • 2007 The Secret Servant
  • But if you are pressed for time or know a particularly dense friend who thinks 9/11 was an inside job or that we went to Iraq for the oil, give them The Secret Servant first and work backwards from this chilling-because-it-is-all-too-real story.

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