A Book Spy Review: ‘A Spy in Exile’ by Jonathan de Shalit


Following his internationally bestselling debut novel, Traitor (2018), Jonathan de Shalit is back with another cerebral spy thriller written in the same vein as John le Carre. 

After she’s forced out of Israel’s intelligence service, former Mossad agent Ya’ara Stein is, quite literally, a spy in exile. That is, until the prime minister picks her to lead a new top-secret unit that will answer only to him, giving her complete control to select her own recruits and train them personally. 

After accepting the prime minister’s offer, Stein–with the help of her chief handler and recruiter, Amnon Aslan–begins her selection process. Hoping her recruits will have the ability to fly under the radar from the Mossad (who knows nothing of her new assignment) and other foreign security services, they begin a training phase designed to make them ruthless killers before heading out on their first mission. 

In Berlin, the team goes after a missing woman with ties to Stein’s past in what is supposed to be a low-key, fairly straightforward operation. However, things take a dramatic turn when they discover that the Russians are involved–and possibly a new offshoot of the Irish Republican Army–and subsequently uncover a series of planned attacks on England and Germany that are already in the works. There is also a plotline that takes them to Brussels to assassinate a high-profile Muslim extremist who’s been beating the drum for jihad, and another in England, as the story bounces around in between a separate focus on Stein’s past. 

While some of the plot threads feel like recycled storylines from several more recent Daniel Silva novels, Jonathan de Shalit does a fine job developing his heroine, who grows into a strong protagonist by the book’s end. Readers will likely hope to see more of Ya’ara Stein and her team of operators, though it’s unclear if the author intends to build a franchise around her. That said, the overall feel and pacing of the story does make this a bit of an acquired taste. Those looking for a shoot ’em style of thriller will be disappointed, as de Shalit’s style is much more slow-burn coupled with a thinking man’s storyline that doesn’t bring much action. Still, for spy enthusiasts, including diehard le Carre fans, it’s a no-brainer. 


Book Details

Author: Jonathan de Shalit
Pages: 384 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1501170562
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Release Date: February 5, 2019
Book Spy Rating: 6.5/10




Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.



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