I read the thriller “Portrait of A Spy” in a little over three days or so and ended up intrigued by Silva’s writing. This tome is about Gabriel, a ‘retired’ Israeli intelligence agent-assassin who’s moved to a secluded area of England with his wife and works in his retirement to restore famous paintings. When a rash of terrorist bombings occur in Europe, Gabriel finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and witnesses a horrific suicide bombing that makes him realize he can never truly retire from his past life. Gabriel is thrust into the middle of the fight against terrorists that takes him all over the world and forces him to deal with shady people from his past. I got the impression he knew going in that he’d get his butt kicked (and he does!) but did so because he ultimately believed that good must always triumph over the evils of this world.
The book is poignant and even more frightening by how realistic and plausible the fictional series of events seem. Actually, it was disturbing in that regard, which means it was a darn good thriller!
People who read my reviews probably notice I don’t always stick to commentary on the story lines. I love to read for the adventure – but also to learn. When an author does something well, I’m just as excited about that as the story itself!
That said, what struck me about this book was Silva’s gift with prose. I have to admit: not many people can write prose in a way that keeps my attention. I prefer shorter novels with less blocks of writing and more action or dialogue to carry the story forward. I wasn’t sure what to expect with Silva – who is a new author to me, even though he’s well established. I found myself intrigued by his writing style, which can be described as almost conversational in style. I think this is what made his prose so interesting to read. It wasn’t like a lecture, which is what most prosy books rely on to convey a great amount of background and description. Silva’s writing was more like a light-hearted tour guide who made some droll tour interesting. Silva’s writing made me want to read more about the complex – and realistic – world he’d created. Which is good, because I found out there’s a sequel to this book when I visited Silva’s website!
I also enjoyed Silva’s strong characters, though it took me awhile to like Gabriel. For reasons that are obvious, Gabriel’s character was reserved and distant, and I felt like I got to know everyone else around him before I truly understood Gabriel. I ended up admiring his dedication to a cause that he knew was likely to get him killed and involved him in a world he left behind. He ended up being the kind of guy I hope is protecting the world from its evils.
About Daniel Silva (taken from his website)
Silva knew from a very early age that he wanted to become a writer, but his first profession would be journalism. Born in Michigan, raised and educated in California, he was pursuing a master’s degree in international relations when he received a temporary job offer from United Press International to help cover the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. Later that year Silva abandoned his studies and joined UPI fulltime, working first in San Francisco, then on the foreign desk in Washington, and finally as Middle East correspondent in Cairo and the Persian Gulf. In 1987, while covering the Iran-Iraq war, he met NBC Today National Correspondent Jamie Gangel and they were married later that year. Silva returned to Washington and went to work for CNN and became Executive Producer of its talk show unit including shows like Crossfire, Capital Gang and Reliable Sources.
In 1995 he confessed to Jamie that his true ambition was to be a novelist. With her support and encouragement he secretly began work on the manuscript that would eventually become the instant bestseller The Unlikely Spy. He left CNN in 1997 after the book’s successful publication and began writing full time. Since then all of Silva’s books have been New York Times and international bestsellers. His books have been translated in to more than 30 languages and are published around the world. He is currently at work on a new novel and warmly thanks all those friends and loyal readers who have helped to make his books such an amazing success.