A Death in Vienna


Title:                      A Death in Vienna

Author:                 Daniel Silva

Silva, Daniel (2004). A Death in Vienna. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

LCCN:    2003064776

PS3619.I5443 D43 2004

LC Subjects

Date Posted:      September 7, 2017

KIRKUS REVIEW[1]

Silva brings his Holocaust trilogy to a close with the pursuit of an SS Sturmbahnführer who’s climbed to the top of the greasy pole and stayed there for 60 years.

When a bomb explodes outside the office of Eli Lavon, the archaeologist who’s forsaken ancient history to head Vienna’s Office of Wartime Claims and Inquiry is merely sent to the hospital in a coma, but his two research assistants aren’t so lucky. Sent to investigate the poisoned city where his own family was shattered by terrorists, globe-hopping, art-restoring Israeli spy Gabriel Allon (The Confessor[2], 2003, etc.) is approached by tearful old violinist Max Klein, who survived Auschwitz to recognize in patrician industrialist Ludwig Vogel the voice of Erich Radek, the camp supervisor who had sent his parents to their death and spared him only to serenade their compatriots as they marched toward their own. Soon after Klein tells Allon that he’d approached Lavon with his suspicions, sealing his doom, he’s dead himself, an apparent suicide, leaving as an inheritance both his knowledge and his danger, since much more than Radek’s own fate hinges on the fortunes of Ludwig Vogel. The Austrian right wing, never long dormant, has powerful reasons for wanting Vogel to remain undisturbed. So do Allon’s sometime friends in the CIA. In his attempts to plumb the depths of Aktion 1005, the real-life Nazi plan to conceal evidence of the death camps, Allon will be putting himself in constant danger of being almost, but not quite, assassinated by a killer dubbed the Clockmaker.

A muffled hero caught in lethargic intrigue that will be disturbing news for readers who haven’t already heard that many Austrians are in deep denial about their wartime history and that American hands aren’t exactly clean in the matter of rehabilitating Nazis. The most chilling section is the historical note at the end.

[1] Kirkus, downloaded September 7, 2017

[2] Silva, Daniel (2003). The Confessor. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

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A Legacy of Spies


Title:                      A Legacy of Spies

Author:                 John le Carré

Le Carré, John (2017). A Legacy of Spies: A Novel. New York, New York: Viking

LCCN:    2017032695

PR6062.E33 L44 2017

Summary

  • “The undisputed master returns with a riveting new book–his first Smiley novel in more than twenty-five years Peter Guillam, staunch colleague and disciple of George Smiley of the British Secret Service, otherwise known as the Circus, is living out his old age on the family farmstead on the south coast of Brittany when a letter from his old Service summons him to London. The reason? His Cold War past has come back to claim him. Intelligence operations that were once the toast of secret London, and involved such characters as Alec Leamas, Jim Prideaux, George Smiley and Peter Guillam himself, are to be scrutinized by a generation with no memory of the Cold War and no patience with its justifications. Interweaving past with present so that each may tell its own intense story, John le Carre has spun a single plot as ingenious and thrilling as the two predecessors on which it looks back:The Spy Who Came in from the ColdandTinker Tailor Soldier Spy. In a story resonating with tension, humor and moral ambivalence, le Carre and his narrator Peter Guillam present the reader with a legacy of unforgettable characters old and new”– Provided by publisher.

Date Posted:      September 6, 2017

Review by Dwight Garner[1]

John le Carré’s new novel is a throwback, a coda to The Spy Who Came in From the Cold[2] (1963), his best-known book. It rehashes decisions made in the coldest years of the Cold War. Among this book’s pleasures is a reminder that adults were once in charge of the destiny of the free world.

This is le Carré’s 24th novel. He is 85. If his long-ago first book, Call for the Dead[3] (1961), reads at times like juvenilia, our fear is that this one will be senilia, a book necessarily composed with an older man’s diminished mnemonic power.

The good news about A Legacy of Spies is that it delivers a writer in full. Le Carré’s prose remains brisk and lapidary. His wit is intact and rolls as if on casters. He is as profitably interested as ever in values, especially the places where loyalty, patriotism and affection rub together and fray. He wears his gravitas lightly.

This button-down writer even indulges in a bit of showmanship. Le Carré hauls out his greatest creation, the Yoda-like spymaster George Smiley, for a cameo appearance, as if he were taking a ‘60s-era Lamborghini long kept in the garage—Smiley’s last appearance was 27 years ago, in The Secret Pilgrim[4]—for a jaunty Sunday spin.

Never mind that Smiley must be well over 100 by now. He’s a type; one of those ashen Englishmen, like the poet Philip Larkin, who seem to be permanently 60 years old. Like Keith Richards and cockroaches, Smiley will be alive after an apocalypse.

A drawback of crime and spy novels, for this reader, is that they turn you into a tough-guy manqué. They make you feel you should learn a chokehold and begin carrying a shiv, in case vigilante justice needs meting out in the dairy aisle.

Le Carré’s novels have their share of rough justice: murders, torture scenes, bad accidents. But his characters play rugby only when chess has failed them. Le Carré is interested in leverage of every sort. It’s a typical moment, in A Legacy of Spies, when a thin man debates how best to use a thick man’s weight against him.

Le Carré has written that an early draft of his novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy[5] (his books have been blessed with memorable titles) began with this mental image: “a solitary and embittered man living alone on a Cornish cliff, staring up at a single black car as it wove down the hillside towards him.”

Move the setting to the south coast of Brittany, subtract a bit of the bitterness, and you have the start of the action in A Legacy of Spies. His protagonist is Peter Guillam, a longtime protégé of Smiley’s in the British Secret Service, a.k.a. the Circus, and long retired.

Guillam is white-haired now. He has hearing aids. He is hauled back to London to explain some of his long-ago actions, intelligence operations in which people close to him died, perhaps unnecessarily. The children of some of le Carré’s best-known characters have grown up and demand justice.

Guillam is forced to recall ancient events in interviews that recall interrogations, and to read newly found documents that bring the past rushing uncomfortably back.

The first page sets this novel’s disbelieving and Lear-like tone: “I am driven in age and bewilderment to set down, at whatever cost, the light and dark sides of my involvement in the affair.”

There is chaos in the present as well as in the past. Guillam is stalked by a deranged and grieving man. “I have a sense of fighting to the last man,” he tells us, “and the last man is me.”

Guillam carries dual passports; he is half-French and half-English. He is familiar to le Carré’s readers. Indeed, he played in a role in le Carré’s first novel.

A more salient thing about him is that he’s a sexy beast. (Benedict Cumberbatch, in a recent movie, played Guillam as a young man.[6]) He is perhaps too sexy. Nearly every woman he comes into contact with, past and present, is leggy and wants to wrestle him into bed.

There’s a distant oink of male chauvinism in this tweedy novel, one that goes beyond establishing the sexual atmosphere of swinging ‘60s-era Britain.

At his farmhouse in Brittany, the elderly Guillam lives with Catherine, a much younger woman, and her 9-year-old daughter. Catherine has always been there; her parents and grandparents were tenants on the property.

We’re told by Guillam that “I have regarded her as my ward” after the death of her father, and “I watched her grow from infancy.” That Guillam sleeps with her after being in loco parentis isn’t just unlikely but a bit too Woody Allen for my tastes.

Le Carré is not of my generation but I have read him for long enough to understand how, for many readers, his characters are old friends—part of their mental furniture. There’s something moving about seeing him revive them so effortlessly, to see that the old magic still holds.

He thinks internationally but feels domestically. In an upside-down time, he appeals to comprehension rather than instinct. I might as well say it: to read this simmering novel is to come in from the cold.

[1] Dwight Garner, “George Smiley and Other Old Friends Return in John le Carré’s A Legacy of Spies,” in New York Times (August 28, 2017). A version of this review appears in print on August 29, 2017, on Page C1 of the New York edition with the headline: “The Cold War Heats Up Again.”

[2] Le Carré, John (1964). The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. New York, Coward-McCann

[3] Le Carré, John [pseud. for David John More Cornwall] (1962, 2102). Call for the Dead. New York : Penguin Books

[4] Le Carré, John (1991, 2008). The Secret Pilgrim. New York: Ballantine Books

[5] Le Carré, John (1974). Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. London: Hodder and Stoughton

[6] See Review: ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ the quintessential spy tale at CNN entertainment.

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The Confessor


Title:                      The Confessor

Author:                 Daniel Silva

Silva, Daniel (2003). The Confessor. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

LCCN:    2002031905

PS3619.I5443

LC Subjects

Date Posted:      August 30, 2017

KIRKUS REVIEW[1]

Another polished and entertaining thriller from the prolific Silva, this one tracking dark secrets in Vatican City.

To widely held suspicions that Pope Pius XII was complicit in the Holocaust, Silva adds a compelling premise: What if Pope John Paul’s successor, here the fictional Pope Paul VII, made information public proving that Pius XII and the Vatican colluded with the Nazis? (The author notes in a postscript that the Vatican Secret Archives, currently sealed off to historians, may house documents that verify the alleged collaboration.) A swirl of intrigue, pursuit, and assassination is set spinning in the wake of Paul VII’s threat. First, someone murders Professor Benjamin Stern in Munich. Investigators there blame neo-Nazis, but Israel’s secret intelligence agency thinks something more sinister is afoot. They send art restorer and hit man Gabriel Allon (The Kill Artist[2], 2000; The English Assassin[3], p. 15) to investigate. Moving from Germany to Italy and England (in a series of sharply observed scenes), Allon learns that Stern, at work on a book, had uncovered information about Pius XII’s trafficking with the Germans during WWII. Crux Vera, a brotherhood secretly operating within the Vatican, will kill to suppress these revelations. So when Crux Vera discovers that Allon is on their scent, they want him taken out and dispatch the Leopard, a professional assassin who finds that killing whets his appetite for kinky sex (“‘Politics . . . does make for strange bedfellows,’” Katrine, the Leopard’s partner, observes post-tryst). But when Allon evades the Leopard, Crux Vera targets the Pope himself, who is poised to address a convocation of Jews in Rome. A suspenseful assassination scene, replete with surprising reversals, caps the chase, with Allon and the Leopard emerging free to stalk and elude each other once again.

Familiar material, for sure, but powered by steady pacing, keen detail, and a strong, ironic finish.

[1] Kirkus, downloaded August 30, 2017

[2] Silva, Daniel (2000). The Kill Artist: A Novel New York : Random House

[3] Silva, Daniel (2002) The English Assassin. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

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Into the Fire


Title:                      Into the Fire

Author:                Dick Couch

Crouch, Dick (2015) and George Galdorisi. Into The Fire: A Novel / created by Tom Clancy and Steve Pieczenik. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin

LCCN:    2015007284

PS3553.O769 I58 2015

Summary

  • “When a team of assassins murder a high-ranking North Korean general and his family in their sleep, making it look like a robbery, events are set in motion that could shake the balance of world powers. Meanwhile, a U.S. naval combat ship, the USS Milwaukee, is attacked by North Korean forces in the middle of a training exercise off the shore of South Korea, and Commander Kate Bigelow is forced to ground the ship to avoid being captured. The crew takes refuge on a tiny island, trapped dangerously between the grounded ship and a fleet of hostile North Korean soldiers. Op-Center intelligence discovers a secret alliance behind the attack–a pact between China and North Korea that guarantees China total control of a vast oil reserve found beneath the Yellow Sea. As both sides marshal their forces for a major confrontation at sea, Chase Williams and his Op-Center organization devise a plan to secretly spirit the American crew from the island and out from under North Korean control. But the North Koreans are not finished. In a desperate gamble, they unleash a terrorist cell on the American homeland. Only Op-Center can uncover their plan and stop it in time to prevent a major catastrophe that could lead to all-out war”– Provided by publisher.

LC Subjects

Series

  • Tom Clancy’s Op-center

Date Posted:      August 8, 2017

Tensions flare in Northwest Asia and Op-Center races to prevent World War III in this chilling, ripped-from-the-headlines thriller from the authors of the USA Today bestseller Out of the Ashes.

When a team of assassins murder a high-ranking North Korean general and his family in their sleep, making it look like a robbery, events are set in motion that could shake the balance of world powers. Meanwhile, a U.S. naval combat ship, the USS Milwaukee, is attacked by North Korean forces in the middle of a training exercise off the shore of South Korea, and Commander Kate Bigelow is forced to ground the ship to avoid being captured. The crew takes refuge on a tiny island, trapped dangerously between the grounded ship and a fleet of hostile North Korean soldiers.

Op-Center intelligence discovers a secret alliance behind the attack—a pact between China and North Korea that guarantees China total control of a vast oil reserve found beneath the Yellow Sea. As both sides marshal their forces for a major confrontation at sea, Chase Williams and his Op-Center organization devise a plan to secretly spirit the American crew from the island and out from under North Korean control. But the North Koreans are not finished. In a desperate gamble, they unleash a terrorist cell on the American homeland. Only Op-Center can uncover their plan and stop it in time to prevent a major catastrophe that could lead to all-out war.

I am of two minds about this review. I have enjoyed the Op-Center series, and hoped that this book would put a fresh new look on the series.

The book was indeed an excellent read. When I read my first Tom Clancy book I didn’t want to put it down. This book held me similarly. It’s Dick Couch who is writing, but he caught my attention and interest and I kept reading.

What did bother me is that the book was not what I expected. It didn’t seem to me that the OP-Center was the main character of the novel. Yes, they are still the best set of intelligence gathering people and they have some good technical and military people involved. However, the story revolved more around Captain Kate Bigelow and the USS Milwaukee. This Naval Vessel is not a war-time fighting vessel; it is a mine sweeper that carries little or no defensive weapons. But as the Milwaukee joins with the Defender (another U.S. minesweeper) and a South Korean flotilla they are approached by North Korean Naval Vessels that are wanting to capture and take prisoner all the naval personnel on the Milwaukee just like the USS Pueblo from the last century.

Captain Kate Bigelow is a great leader, and she takes her no-weapon vessel and uses it as a way to hold off the two Korean Vessels and allowing the flotilla to escape. Nevertheless, in spite of her remarkable delaying action, and the work of an outstanding crew, she does lose the ship and some of her crew, and comes close to having everyone captured.

OP-Center analyzes the situation and provides the U.S. President with a way to intervene and get the crew back. But this could lead to all-out war. This was my disappointment. I am an intel wonk, and wanted Op-Center to be the main focus of the book. Op-Center plays a minor role in the book, but of course a major action regarding decision making about the situation.

The book is compelling with today’s political and military situations with North Korea. They are a menace to the world and need to be contained and in a sense reprimanded much as a stubborn child should be.

Dick Couch gets the situation right and does a great job of bringing the situation to a climax that you will find impressive and well written.

I’m happy with this new edition to OP-Center, but must say that it is not like our old OP-Center but still worth the read.

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The Marching Season


Title:                      The Marching Season

Author:                Daniel Silva

Silva, Daniel (1999). The Marching Season. New York: Random House

LCCN:    98053464

PR6069.I362 M36 1999

LC Subjects

Date Posted:      July 19, 2017

Review by Edward Neuert[1]

Composing spy novels in the wake of the Cold War is a tough business, but in the wake of “Austin Powers” it has become even more difficult. So you can blame the two Michaels, Gorbachev and Myers, for the bind Daniel Silva finds himself in. Silva’s third political thriller follows Michael Osbourne, a retired C.I.A. officer, as he is forced back into his former trade. His mission: to protect his father-in-law, the newly appointed American Ambassador to London, from assassination at the hands of a rogue Protestant faction opposed to the Good Friday accords for peace in Ireland. Stepping in to support this faction—and to assist in the assassination plot—is the Society for International Development and Cooperation, a shadowy organization of powerful arms dealers, intelligence operatives and crime associations who want to “promote constant, controlled global tension through covert operations.” In the old days, the ranks of the K.G.B. or the Stasi could cough up a fictional spymaster who, no matter how thinly drawn or wooden-tongued, would have enough immoral reality behind him to successfully stagger to life on the page. Now such figures often seem silly. Silva’s readers are asked to believe that without the guidance of the Society’s omnipotent Director, airliners would not explode in the sky off Long Island, Arab leaders would not face assassination, and Irish hotheads would be without resources. In these days of decentralized mayhem, however, it does not take Dr. No to make bad things occur—to paraphrase the bumper sticker, Evil Happens. Silva is not a bad writer, and one wishes he had cut straight to his gritty, unnerving Irish scenes and dug deeper into the sod of Ulster, where everything is green and bleak and where, as one I.R.A. member says, “we may stop slaughtering each other for a while, but nothing’s ever going to change.”

[1] Edward Neuert, in The New York Times (May 9, 1999)

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Act of Treason


Title:                     Act of Treason

Author:                Vince Flynn

Flynn, Vince (2006). Act of Treason. New York: Atria Books

LCCN:    2006299247

PS3556.L94 A25 2006

LC Subjects

Date Posted:      July 10, 2017

Review by Joe Hartlaub[1]

Act of Treason, Vince Flynn’s novel featuring maverick CIA agent Mitch Rapp, is properly classified as a thriller. But Flynn plays with the concept of the genre here, rearranging the blocks, if you will, with electrifying and riveting results.

The story does not concern a terrorist plot about to take place that will change the course of the nation and that must be discovered and prevented before all is lost. Instead, the major action—an explosive attack upon a motorcade carrying presidential candidate Josh Alexander, his wife and vice-presidential candidate Mark Ross—is successfully carried out at the very beginning of the book. Alexander’s wife is killed, and Alexander and Ross, behind in the polls with the election only weeks away, are unexpectedly swept to victory by a sympathetic electorate.

When the identity of the bomber is revealed through a combination of luck, dogged investigation and high technology, Rapp leads a team of CIA agents to capture him, only to discover that the apprehension of the assassin is but one thread in a tapestry that presents a picture of deceit and dishonor that leads to the highest corridors of the White House.

There aren’t many secrets in Act of Treason—it becomes fairly obvious early on where Flynn is going with this—but the unknown factors, such as what Rapp will discover, how he will do so, and, ultimately, what he is going to do about it, is what makes the book a finger-burning page-turner. His major strengths—plotting and pacing–are let out at full throttle so that the 400+ story-packed pages literally fly by.

Flynn’s profile rises with the publication of each new novel, and there is no doubt that Act of Treason will bring him to even loftier heights. Rapp is a hero for our age, a rougher, more independent and ultimately more effective Jack Ryan for the 21st century. He may, or may not, exist as a clandestine force in the real world; here’s hoping that he does.

[1] Joe Hartlaub, at BookReporter (January 11, 2011)

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Target Utopia


Title:                     Target Utopia

Author:                Dale Brown

Brown, Dale (2015) and Jim Defelice. Target Utopia: A Dreamland Thriller. New York: HarperCollins

LCCN:    2016659184

Summary

  • After tracking a mysterious UAV to a group of Muslim extremists in Borneo, the Whiplash team race against time to recover their stolen technology and discover who is bankrolling the group before they start World War III.

LC Subjects

Date Posted:      June 28, 2017

Dale Brown has a series, “Dreamland” of which this is one of 13 (there will undoubtedly be more). Readers need to be familiar with the series to get full enjoyment from this book. The characters are somewhat established, the concept of Dreamland has been well laid out, and the weapons technology is at times dense.Terr

Review by William D. Curnutt[1]

Dale Brown gives us another good military novel. This time he tackles the art of fighting via drones, but not just the slow drones that fly high and drop ordinance from the sky to take out terrorist. This time it is drones that are fast, highly maneuverable and capable of fighting in pairs or groups in air to air combat that will drive most pilots to land and never go up again.

The artificial intelligence capability of a drone in comparison to the human brain seems to be no contest. The AI can process faster, deliver more options and well, learn. Then put into place a drone without a pilot that can pull an enormous amount of G-Forces in sudden turns, dives, flips, etc. and you have a weapon that can’t be beat. A human pilot would black out from the G-force of the turns of the drone. Thus, while blacked out he is shot out of the sky.

Brown brings his own flying with the military to bear on this novel and knows what he is talking about. With a rogue agent doing his best to build and fly his own drone air force we have an enemy that may be beyond our ability to take out. Thus, the President of the United States must turn to its clandestine group of elite technicians, computer developers and military personnel to find and destroy this rogue operation.

All the while they are having to do this while not starting a war with China who is not happy with the USA for being in their backyard and flying what appears to be military operations that could endanger the Chinese.

The book is well written, the technology is well documented, the air to air fighting tactics are fabulous. All in all if you love Military Novels you will find this most enjoyable.

[1] At Amazon, https://www.amazon.com/Target-Utopia-Dreamland-Dale-Brown/dp/0062122878

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