The Black Widow, the latest installment in the hugely popular Gabriel Allon series by Daniel Silva, came out last week. Of course, I had pre-ordered my copy, which arrived in my Nook library on July 12, 2016. I read The Black Widow in just under three days. It was hard to put it down, but at times, I had to stop reading.
“Black Widows” are the wives or girlfriends of men who have died for the cause of radical Islam — not Islam at all, but instead, a phony, perverted copy of Islam with which they hide their criminal efforts to take over the entire world. Sounds like the bad guys in the old James Bond movies, right. Well, it’s real, folks. The women left behind, mostly very young women, angered at the deaths of their husbands and boyfriends, often become radicalized themselves — if they weren’t already. This installment of the Gabriel Allon series focuses on some of those women, while examining the Arab-Jewish conflict with a primary focus on ISIS.
There are news reports of an altercation with serious injuries in the Marais district of Paris, a region known for its large Jewish population. Of course, it was not an altercation at all, but an ambush designed to harm or kill Jews. When Hannah Weinberg, a personal friend of Gabriel’s is killed in the subsequent bombing of her Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism in France, (a.k.a., The Weinberg Center) Gabriel, who had retired from field work, is compelled to step into the fray once again.
Dr. Natalie Mizrahi is a French-born jewish physician living in Paris who Gabriel recruits to infiltrate the caliphate, and learn whatever she can about planned attacks on American soil. Natalie becomes “Dr. Leila Hadawi”, another “black widow”. As always, Silva’s ability to build suspense is incomparable. Simultaneously, he educates the reader on the history of the ancient but ongoing Arab-Isralei feud with additional information not likely to known by the average American.
As most serious writers do, Silva uses his characters to voice the his own views, and provides the reader with serious food for thought. For example, he tells us,
- the different intelligence services within the U.S. and other countries, that do not cooperate with each other are referred to as being “…like divorced parents of small children….” forced to work together;
- in addressing the differences between leaders of Middle Eastern countries and those of the American president, Silva has Gabriel wonder “…how the American president would feel if ISIS were two hours from Indiana” as they are from some European countries — most definitely something to think about;
- in discussing the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, the spokesman for the fictitious American president was quoted as having said, “‘We have a strategy.” The narrator (Silva) states “Then, with a straight face, he added, ‘It is working’ “;
- one character bemoans the fact that “…most international trains in Western Europe…” allow passengers to board without clearing passport control;
- a fictitious Jordanian official comments that they had warned Americans about toppling Saddam Hussein, and that Americans did not listen to this, nor when asked to do something about Syria before the Arab Spring uprising.
One question that remains unanswered for me is why would any woman support these criminals who subjugate women to the role of slaves, who beat women for removing their head scarves, for attempting to get an education, and especially for falling in love with a non-Muslim man?
What About the Book Made this Reviewer Grumpy?
Not much. Only a couple of minor grammatical errors, a couple of places where the syntax could have been better, and a problem that plagues most e-books: punctuation that becomes a row of three little boxes. Oh, yes, there was the comment that, “…Mikhail grew lightheaded from the stench of over-ripe azaleas”. For the record, azaleas have no fragrance.
Previously, I had feared that this could be the final Gabriel book because he will be taking over as the head of “the Office”. I was very happy to see Gabriel say he will not be satisfied with sitting behind a desk all the time. So all of us Gabriel fans can indeed hope for more of Gabriel’s adventures.