As I discussed, the past couple months have been a bookish whirlwind. I did have the pleasure of fitting in Simon Vance’s masterful reading of Portrait of a Spy. Daniel Silva recently visited my town to promote the book, but I had to missed the talk. I heard positive reviews from those who did go to his event. When I came across the audio read by Vance, one of my favorite narrators in the business, I decided to give him a shot.
Portrait of a Spy is the latest in Silva’s Gabriel Allon series. I was hesitant to jump into a series so far along. Silva covers the highlights of Allon’s background quickly, catching readers up, once the character is properly introduced. A talented artist, he was recruited by Mossad where he earned a reputation as an elite officer.
This outing finds him seemingly retired in Cornwall helping a friend with a sensitive art restoration project. A relaxing trip into London puts Gabriel and his wife, Chiara, in the middle of a terrorist bombing- one of three worldwide the same day.
Gabriel returns to Cornwall, haunted by his failure to prevent the attack in London. It is not long before a call from Washington pulls him back into the world of clandestine operations and offers a chance to make it right on a more global scale. Given permission by the CIA to form his own team, Gabriel brings in some of the best operatives from his time with Mossad. Together, they devise a plan to bring down the dangerous cleric behind the bombings who is poised to create a worldwide network of dangerous extremists.
It would be hard to say more about the plot without waving my hand through the delicate spiderweb of interconnected personalities, plots, and plans. Silva has created an intricate spy thriller, refined by the added blend of art and the criminal element.
Simon Vance’s reading enriches the tale. The myriad of accents and characters are all given unique voices, including the women who are convincingly read. Thrillers can sometimes place plot over character, but Vance makes them real people, not just conduits for the story.