Saturday, November 17, 2018

Book Review: 'The Black Widow' by Daniel Silva

Daniel Silva's "The Black Widow" is a tragically timely novel that is all the more unnerving because it mirrors current events. France is rocked by a wave of terror, and European leaders are desperate to prevent further carnage. Gabriel Allon, who will be the next chief of the Israeli Secret Intelligence Service, undertakes what he believes to be a vital mission. He and his colleagues convince Dr. Natalie Mizrahi, a Jewish physician who is fluent in French and Arabic, to pose as Dr. Leila Hadawi, a woman who is willing to sacrifice her life to help ISIS defeat its enemies. Natalie's handlers hope that she will funnel vital information to them about planned attacks and the mastermind behind them.

The book is set in such locales as Beirut, Syria, Israel, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, and Washington. Silva focuses less on Gabriel and his team's heroics than on the inner workings of ISIS. We observe with fearful anticipation as Natalie tries to pass as a true believer, knowing that if she makes a single misstep, she will be summarily executed. The villain is Saladin, a brilliant strategist whose code name is that of the fabled warrior known for uniting the Muslim world and liberating Jerusalem from the Crusaders. "The Black Widow" is dramatic, suspenseful, and chilling in its depiction of the ruthlessness and brutality of radical extremists, who will not lay down their arms until they bring Western civilization to its knees. They are Internet savvy, use social media to their advantage, and employ advanced encryption programs to avoid detection.

Although there are scenes that depict Gabriel as a devoted husband and father and a talented art restorer, Silva concentrates more on politics and espionage than on personal matters. As usual, the author briefly recaps Gabriel's history for those who are new to the series. It is noteworthy that Allon's contributions to the mission are more cerebral than physical, since his days in the field may finally be behind him. "The Black Widow" is an adroitly crafted and dramatic portrayal of the ideological and religious war between ISIS and its adversaries. The democracies of the world are faced with a crisis. How can America and her allies hope to bring down sophisticated terror networks whose members are willing to do anything to advance their cause? Silva makes clear that, in an open society, it is impossible to protect every home, park, office, school, and restaurant from assaults by suicide bombers who eagerly embrace a culture of death. Daniel Silva has written a suspenseful, fast-paced, and frightening thriller that is likely to become one of his most widely read works of fiction to date.

Editor's note: This review was written by Eleanor Bukowsky and has been reposted with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right

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