The New Girl by Daniel Silva
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
As with most spy thrillers, it is very hard to give a review without spoilers. I’ve tried to avoid any direct spoilers, but there are aspects that might be given away by what I say. So be warned.
The worst part about a Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon novel is that it comes to an end. The New Girl is just as fun, exciting, moving, and thought-provoking as the previous 18. It’s hard to top the early novels, but this is up there.
I do so wish Gabriel Allon (GA) was real. Maybe there are people like him and they are so good at what they do, we don’t hear about them and the problems they prevent. But it’s also a bit like hoping Batman was real. No one person is capable of this – and even if they were it is probably not a good idea to have them doing these things in the way they are done in the stories. It works in Batman and GA because we know, because they are the protagonists of the story, that they are good guys. In real life, without an omniscient narrator, we cannot know that.
The best part about The New Girl was the relationship that develops between GA and Khalid. They are, understandably, skeptical and weary of each other at first, but through the events of the story they seem to learn to trust each other and develop what seems like it could be a deep and long friendship – though the way the story unfolds that may not turn out to be the case.
At this point, 19 books in, we don’t get a lot of character development from the main cast. And there is very little of that. Keller, Mihkail, Seymour, Gabriel are who they are. So you need the new characters to drive that aspect. Silva always does a great job at this, both with new protagonists and the antagonists. Sarah’s story arc is interesting – not so much specifically for the plot of The New Girl, but across the several books she has been in. I think there are some exciting things Silva could (and will) do with this character in future novels (which is part of why she was in The New Girl – as set up for the future).
Silva also usually does a great job of humanizing his antagonists. They are rarely mindless fanatics: they have motivations that might have started out reasonable enough, but have gone deeply astray. Part of what he does well with this is that it is not a matter of some hackneyed, lazy moral grayness, where the good guys are a little bad, and the bad guys are a bit good. It’s more that Silva shows us these are human beings that have a complex history and that they have made (often bad) choices that have brought them to this point. We don’t sympathize with them, but we understand them. They are not merely monsters. However, some of the main antagonists in the New Girl come off a bit shallow. They are either just the tools of some mostly off-stage actor directing them (I’m trying not to spoil things) or they are motivated in fairly basic ways (sex and/or power). Nevertheless, I suppose there is some truth in that—but it does take away slightly from the drama.
There are several surprising elements to this story—I can’t discuss them without spoiling them, but I will say Silva allows the story to unfold without introducing any dues ex machinas. I sort of expected a few or at least Silva to pull back. So I’m glad he had the storytelling integrity to go forward with it.
There were several moments in the story related specifically to Israel that, although they are not essential to plot, I found quite moving; even got choked up a bit.
I enjoy how Silva weaves in current real world events – though I do have to be careful not to confuse Silva’s world for the real one!
I am not sure what I think of the ending. It’ll take some time to process it. Partly, I’m not sure what precisely happened. Time will tell.
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