House of Spies: Daniel Silva

When you’ve been as prolific and acclaimed as Silva has been, it’s almost inevitable that sooner or later you’ll start to get sloppy, to slip. As Yeats said, “Things falls apart, the centre cannot hold.”

For me, it shows in the absence of tightness in the writing. The middle of the book is still highly crafted, but the beginning and end sees dense block of exposition, meaning too much telling, not enough showing, as I believe judicious dialogue provides.

Worse, it is too similar in plot to Silva’s previous offerings. Change a few names and details and you’d be hard-pressed to differentiate it from several of his most recent novels.

Not Silva’s best, but still very good. Your mileage may vary.

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The Swiss Spy: Alex Gerlis

It took until my e-reader told me I had read 73% of the book to understand why Gerlis bothered writing this book at all.

The historical facts are well known, leaving no suspense. The writing is bland and expository. The characters are such cardboard cutouts I frequently had to thumb backwards to remember who was who.

Then, finally, at the 73% mark the titular protagonist performs the one decent act in the book, which naturally marks him for death.

So I guess that’s the purpose: spying is a nasty, dirty business that can only end in misery and death. Much like this book.

Olen Steinhauer: An American Spy

Anything Steinhauer writes is usually spun gold; this time, he weaves it differently, with strands of differing viewpoints and multiple characters starting at various time points in the story and at differing locations. Other than the opening (he never should have started with the Chinese thread there) it mostly works.
Milo Weaver, and his sister, is a gem.

I will miss Evgeny Primakov.

Letitia should be granted her own series.