Gabriel Allon, the wayward son of Israeli intelligence, returns to star in his sixteenth novel authored by Daniel Silva. Set shortly after the events of last year’s The English Spy, Gabriel is finally nearing the day when he will forever leave behind his dangerous work in the field to instead sit behind a desk as director of Israel’s foreign intelligence service, known simply as the Office.
Gabriel, who apart from being the Office’s most legendary operative, is also one of the most skilled art restorers in the world. Equally skilled with both a paintbrush and a gun, Allon begins this book by utilizing the former skillset to bring an old piece of art back to life.
The painting, which longtime fans of the series will immediately recognize, could quite possibly be Gabriel’s final restoration. Apart from that, Allon plans to spend his last few days off with his wife and their newborn twins, Raphael, and Irene. But just days before he is set to replace Uzi Navot, the current director, an explosion rocks a Jewish neighborhood in France, pulling Gabriel back into the field for one final mission.
While this won’t be the first time Gabriel runs an operation in France, it does mark the first time that he’s doing so with their blessing. In fact, they requested his services and even strong-armed him into helping out.
A woman whom Gabriel knew (she appeared in Silva’s sixth Allon novel, The Messenger) was among those killed in the explosion. She happened to be in possession of a very rare and famous painting that is valued at more than twenty million dollars. In the event of her death, she had arranged for the painting to go to Gabriel. Knowing this, the French confiscated it from her flat and are holding it until he finishes aiding them with their investigation.
Gabriel and his team get to work and quickly learn that the man behind the attack is a terrorist mastermind who calls himself Saladin. With women all over the world, including the west, joining the ranks of ISIS, Gabriel exploits the terror group’s one weakness by inserting a recruit of his own to infiltrate Saladin’s operation.
The recruit, Natalie Mizrahi, is a French-born Israeli working as a doctor in Jerusalem. With no field experience, Gabriel must train and mold her into the unassuming, lethal weapon needed for this particular operation. In doing so, Mizrahi takes on the identity of Leila Hadawi, the daughter of Palestinian refugees and Gabriel Allon’s black widow.
(Think of ISIS as the Death Star and their recruiting tactics as the thermal exhaust port. Gabriel, then, would be Luke Skywalker, planning to expose their lone weakness. Mizrahi is the torpedo aimed to bring the whole thing down, if only it were that simple…)
If Mizrahi can get close enough to Saladin to expose him, Gabriel will end his field career by killing the terrorist before finally taking his much-anticipated promotion. However, things don’t exactly go according to plan.
Saladin, for all his ambition and ruthlessness, has managed to keep his true identity a secret. Everyone from Jordan’s GID to America’s CIA, and, of course, the Office, know him by reputation and name only. Smoking him out will not be easy, especially for a young doctor working as a newly trained, and first-time spy.
Mizrahi’s scenes are especially compelling, as the magnitude of her mission is never lost on the reader. Silva has done a tremendous job developing her character just enough to make the readers care about her, while at the same time allowing her to remain somewhat of a mystery. That balance allows for some really intense moments later on, as the story eventually takes several surprising turns.
With nonstop suspense and more than a few twists to keep readers glued to their chairs, The Black Widow is Daniel Silva’s darkest, most timely thriller to date. If this is indeed Gabriel’s last time out in the field, Silva makes sure to send him off with a bang.
Proving once again to be one of the best authors of his generation, Daniel Silva delivers a stunningly brilliant plot, with a final act that is sure to leave readers speechless!
Why I loved it
If you’ve read Silva’s last few books, then it’s no secret that the Gabriel Allon we once knew is coming to an end. Older, but finally happy and ready to settle down with his wife, Chiara, and their children, Gabriel’s days as a field operative have long been numbered.
As a longtime fan of the series, I’m happy for Gabriel, but sad at the same time. I’m not yet ready to admit to myself that those days of him in the field are over with. However, if they are, Silva has begun setting things up for the future rather nicely.
Among the many new characters introduced in The Black Widow are two Israeli operatives that are part of Gabriel’s team. One, or both, could absolutely have their roles increased as Allon transitions to more of an in-charge figure who manages things from a distance.
Regardless of how things play out in the future, I have nothing but total trust and confidence in Daniel Silva and wherever he’s planning to take this franchise.
For what it’s worth, I think that Saladin is one of Silva’s best villains and a worthy foe for Gabriel Allon. I love the mystique around his true identity, which only adds to the overall suspense of the story.
Why you should read it
Written with prophetic-like precision, Silva’s latest thriller is almost too real to be called fiction. As good as Gabriel Allon is with a paintbrush, Silva is even better with a pencil and legal pad, which he famously uses to write out the first drafts of his novels.
Known for beating headlines and tackling political issues before they are considered mainstream, Silva topped himself yet again when he wrote about ISIS attacking France long before the real-life attacks that took place in Brussels and Molenbeek.
Daniel Silva is the master of spy thrillers and one of the best authors on the planet. To not read his books and call yourself a fan of the genre is nearly criminal.
Author: Daniel Silva
Release Date: July 12, 2016 (Order now!)