Synopsis (from Goodreads):
She was his best-kept secret …
In an isolated village in the mountains of Andalusia, a mysterious Frenchwoman begins work on a dangerous memoir. It is the story of a man she once loved in the Beirut of old, and a child taken from her in treason’s name. The woman is the keeper of the Kremlin’s most closely guarded secret. Long ago, the KGB inserted a mole into the heart of the West—a mole who stands on the doorstep of ultimate power.
Only one man can unravel the conspiracy: Gabriel Allon, the legendary art restorer and assassin who serves as the chief of Israel’s vaunted secret intelligence service. Gabriel has battled the dark forces of the new Russia before, at great personal cost. Now he and the Russians will engage in a final epic showdown, with the fate of the postwar global order hanging in the balance.
It wasn’t the worst Gabriel Allon part, far from it. In fact I would enjoy that fun, fast-paced thriller enormously if only my brain didn’t switch on in the least opportune moment. What’s happened? Let me explain.
The main story arc is based on life and deeds of Kim Philby, one of the most dangerous Russian moles active in the UK in the 20th century and the most prominent member of the Cambridge Five. Philby was a convinced communist, Marxist even. His extramarital child was supposed to inherit these proclivities and here comes my problem numero uno. Do children often follow the footsteps of their parents? Well, not really. Philby’s father was an author, orientalist, and convert to Islam. Kim didn’t follow his example for a reason or two so why his progeniture should?
My second problem was that child of Philby (I am deliberately vague when it comes to sex of the said child as it is a spoiler) was living and spying in a quite different era – there are not many real communists in contemporary Russia, not when it comes to the government anyway. Vladimir Putin is called in this novel simply ‘the Tzar’ and very rightly so, he is far closer to pre-communist era rulers of that country. Now I wonder: how come the child of a fervent Marxist could be so faithful to not-especially communistic overlords? I suppose it would be far more logical if that child turned against modern Russians, becoming a so-called double agent.
A decent spy novel but nothing special. Meh.