The Daily Bongo

Prince of Fire

I have just finished reading the latest entry in Daniel Silva's Gabriel Allon series. Gabriel Allon is an Israeli spy who also plies his trade as an art restorer. This is the first book that I read in the series although it is in actuality the fourth. That didn't detract from the enjoyment of the book, but more about that later. Daniel Silva started out as a news journalist, mostly specializing in matters dealing with the Middle East. He uses his knowledge and experience with the situation in his books which mostly deal with international terrorist activities that are staunched by spies for the good guys.

Prince of Fire starts out with a terrorist attack at the Israeli embassy in Rome. Gabriel Allon is brought back into service by the Israeli government to find out who did it. Gabriel and his team find out that there is more to the event than meets the eye. It appears that the mastermind behind the attack might be a shadowy figure named Khaled. The last known official photo of Khaled is of a young boy seated on the knee of Yaser Arafat. Khaled's grandfather and father had both been terrorists for the liberation of Palestine, and Khaled's father had been killed by Gabriel in Paris many years ago. The hunt begins for Khaled, and takes Gabriel to Cairo and then to France in an attempt to stop the next attack which is planned for April 18, the anniversary of the destruction of Khaled's family and the Palestinian city of Sumayriyya. The only fact that Gabriel and his team have to work with is that Khaled was sent to Europe as a young child, and his name was changed. The scorpion in the nest has integrated well with European culture and will be difficult to identity. The back story in the novel deals with Gabriel and his personal life. In an earlier book, Gabriel suffered losses when a terrorist bomb in his car killed his young son, Dani, and injured his wife physically and psychologically to the point where she is committed to a psychiatric nursing home in England with no hope of recovery. Gabriel has moved on with life, and has a new girlfriend, Chiara, who is also involved with Israeli spy activities. Will Gabriel's search for Khaled soothe the pain that he feels over the destruction of his family?

This book was an exciting page turner. The story moved along quickly, and the tensions built as you wonder if Gabriel will succeed in discovering the real identity of Khaled and whether Gabriel and his small band will be able to stop the next terrorist attack by removing Khaled. Things don't go as planned and there are some unexpected twists and turns. The undertone of the book is dark. Gabriel's future is uncertain. Israel's existence is hanging by a thread. Towards the end of the book, one of Gabriel's associates, an archaeologist says "People come and go from this place, Gabriel. Our ancestors ruled it briefly a very long time ago. Now we rule it again. But one day we'll be gone too. The only question is how long will we be here this time, and what will we leave behind for men like me to unearth in the future? I hope it's something more than the footprint of a Separation Fence." The story left a mark on me, and I will add the earlier books on to my "to be read" list. Prince of Fire is an excellent spy novel that challenges the reader to question the motivations behind both sides of the conflict.

March 18, 2006