The Unlikely Spy


Daniel Silva


Mystery / Thriller


Date Reviewed:

January 10, 2008

he Unlikely Spy is the first novel written by Daniel Silva. It is an impressive book. It is a spy thriller set in the middle of World War 2. The Allies are planning to invade France, and the Germans desperately wish to know where the invasion will take place: Normandy or Calais? - so that Rommel's troops can counterattack and drive them into the sea.

The Allies build an elaborate ruse to get the Nazis to believe that the invading army is preparing to attack Calais. But if any German spy can penetrate the deception, the Germans will know the truth and the invasion could be a disaster. Unknown to the Nazis, all of their spies have been captured an either executed or turned into double agents, feeding false information back to Berlin. Unfortunately, radio interceptions reveal to the British MI6 that there is still one uncompromised German spy, run by a different German spy network that has not been nullified by British Intelligence. The German spy has been dormant for years, but now has been activated and is looking for answers regarding the forthcoming invasion. This book is the story of that German spy, Catherine Blake (not her real name, of course) and Alfred Vicary, the professor-turned-counter-intellegence expert who is trying to catch her. The plot is not quite as good as Day of the Jackal, but it is pretty good. (I mention Day of the Jackal because it involves an assassination attempt on Charles DeGaulle, and everyone know that DeGaulle was never assassinated, yet still the book is a wonderful novel of suspense. In The Unlikely Spy, the reader knows that the Germans did not learn the truth of Operation Overlord, so Catherine Blake is doomed to failure, but Silva still does a fine job of manufacturing suspense.)

This novel is suspenseful. Blake is resourceful, and she is ruthless. In fact, it almost seems too easy for her. Meanwhile, Professor Vicary is often thwarted in his efforts by his superior officer - is there, in fact, a pro-German agent inside MI6?

Silva takes us to the German side of the English Channel, the reader gets to see the maneuvering of the various German intelligence agencies, and their ruthless rivalry with each other. The menace of these meetings is well done.

Silva also paints a fine portrait of the German paratrooper who parachutes into England to assist Blake, plus the traitorous English farmer who aids him (he's not really English, he is a bitter ex-IRA guy), and the young girl who lives near the farm who sees more than she should. The only character that didn't work out so well (in my opinion) is Robert Jordan, the American engineer in charge of constructing the Mulberries (artifical harbors were needed to bring ashore supplies at Normandy, which doesn't have a natural harbor). The book starts out describing Jordan, but then he disappears for a few hundred pages, and when he resurfaces a few hundred pages later, Jordan is mostly a cardboard character.

One point that was a mystery for me - how did Catherine Blake get the combination to Robert Jordan's safe? Did I just miss the explanation, reading through the paragraphs too quickly?

Apparently, this plot line is quite similar to Follet's book The Eye of the Needle - in which a German spy learns about the Allies plans for the Normandy invasion and tries to tell Berlin. I haven't read that book, but now I am keen to look it up, so see how Follet (an expert novelist himself) handles this same subject as Daniel Silva. I enjoyed The Unlikely Spy, I will have to check out Silva's second book, which I think is The Mark of the Assassin.