The English Girl: A Novel (Gabriel Allon)

Image of The English Girl: A Novel (Gabriel Allon)
Release Date: 
July 16, 2013
Harper Collins
Reviewed by: 

“Daniel Silva is an excellent storyteller.”

In The English Girl Daniel Silva brings his protagonist Gabriel Allon back into the limelight as one of the best characters in action stories.

This story begins when a young woman is kidnapped, and her kidnappers demand a ransom for her return.

Madeleine Hart is the mistress of England’s Prime Minister, Jonathan Lancaster, and on the eve of an election where he stands for a second term, a scandal is just not appropriate! Lancaster agrees to the ransom demands of ten million Euros for Madeleine’s return, but the kidnappers demand that Gabriel Allon make the delivery.

What seems to be a simple premise takes a darker turn once Gabriel is brought in to find the girl.

Perhaps the demand for Allon’s participation is an odd request since Allon is an Israeli spy who has nothing to do with English politics . . . well, almost nothing. Allon begins his search by tapping his considerable array of contacts; men and women who exist at all levels of society.

He quickly teams up with Christopher Keller, an operative who once was hired to kill Gabriel, but Gabriel recognizes Christopher’s innate skills and the two men form an unusual alliance.

The fast-paced story moves through England, France, Corsica, Russia, and other points as these two men follow leads and leave a string of dead men behind. As leads turn up more leads and Allon and Keller close the gap, Madeleine is soon located. Unfortunately, her kidnappers choose not to let her go and the English girl is murdered and left in the trunk of a car, her remains burned beyond recognition.

The ransom demands are met, but the story does not end with the ransom paid. It’s really just the beginning. Allon does not get into the physical fights, but he knows the value of a team that can do whatever must be done to achieve its goals in whatever manner is necessary. Allon gathers his famous team to further pursue the path that the ransom took—and this is where Daniel Silva grabs us for the roller coaster ride.

Just as the reader follows the trajectory of the story, it takes a twist in another direction. Nothing is a straight line in this story, and that’s what makes it hard to put the book down. Nothing is as it seems; not the story; not the characters; not the locations.

As we inhale the answers to the many questions put forth in the story, we discover what an illusory concept understanding really is. We don’t really have the answers until the end of the story—and one might say we may not even have the correct questions.

Daniel Silva is an excellent storyteller. His writing style keeps the reader turning pages. His descriptions of places like the back streets of Marseilles or the beauty of Corsica whisks us out of the comfort of our living room to be dropped into the middle of the action.

Mr. Silva’s writing is anything but passive, and his use of the five senses to describe people and places, gives a three-dimensional quality to the story.

In his character of Gabriel Allon, Mr. Silva has created a person we can believe in. He gives Gabriel strengths—wit, cunning, intensity—but also allows us to see the introspection that governs Gabriel’s personal life, making him a human being not just a person on a piece of paper.

It’s hard to find fault with a story that cannot be put down, but if there were something to question in The English Girl, it would be that Gabriel Allon almost never seems to be in any danger himself. That is to say '”almost” because there is a gripping scene when he races to save Madeleine only to be met by an explosion in an automobile, and the discovery of Madeleine’s body in the trunk of that car. It should be pointed out, however, that this very scene is a major turning point in the story—the event that raises Allon’s determination not to let this be the end of the search for justice for Madeleine.

To say that the ending to The English Girl is twisted like a pretzel would be an understatement, but let us not be spoilers. The reader must discover the ending for him- or herself.

For fans of Daniel Silva, this book will not disappoint. It is a rapid read and one can only hope that Christopher Keller will become an ongoing character in future stories. He is the yin to Gabriel’s yang, and we want to see more of him.