Friday, January 3, 2014

In Praise of...Daniel Silva?!

The best spy novel of all time is John LeCarre's classic The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, a stunning tale of deceit and the truth about being a spy.  There is no machine gunning in the streets, but rather file reading and drawn out chess matches of maneuvering. 
Daniel Silva has, rather remarkably, taken LeCarre's mantle as the premier spy novelist currently writing. 
In the beginning of his career, this seemed somewhat impossible: his first "real" novel was Mark of the Assassin which was a solid page turner but nothing spectacular.  It dealt with the battle between two killers.  While it was a good book, it was nowhere near a spy thriller classic.  After Silva's third book, a new series featuring art restorer / Israeli assassin Gabriel Allon, I was out.  The books seemed to fall into a predictable and familiar pattern. 
After a decade long hiatus from his work I returned to his books when one of them appeared on my kindle.  The latest Allon thriller (at first I could not believe the series was still going) was shockingly getting a lot of praise from critics and then readers. voted it one of the hundred best books of the year!  Shocking!  I figured it was time to return to Silva.  Am I ever glad I did. 
Some authors can be written off (Ha!) because over time they get worse as writers.  Their best books are the first ones.  Other authors peak later on after they have spent the proper amount of time honing their craft.  Silva, definitely falls into the later category.  That is not to say that all of his early books are not worthwhile, because most of them are.  He writes with genuine passion and he writes books that are smarter than your average thriller.  All this time I was comparing his work with the Lee Child / Brad Thor level authors when a more apt comparison would be Robert Harris or LeCarre - true thinking persons novels. 
The English Girl is nothing short of a superb novel with true depth.  The action is good, thought provoking, twisty and complicated: this is how real spies operate.  At the conclusion there is no shoot outs or massive explosions, rather it is a contemplative end where the cost of success it readily apparent.  I was hooked.
Over the holidays I spent my extra reading time tearing through multiple Silva books, alternated perfectly with Michael Connelly's equally addictive novels and found them all to be excellent reads.  Knowing I have more of the series to go makes me very excited indeed.  Sometimes author's just need time to develop their skills and polish their ideas.  Silva has certainly achieved that and readily deserves the praise he has received for his excellent works.