The Other Woman
PublisherHarperCollins
Date Published26 July 2018
 
 
ISBN-10
ISBN-13978-0008280918
Formathardcover
Pages496
Price£ 20.00

The Other Woman

by Daniel Silva

A long time ago an event occurred that had profound consequences for the future, involving a young child who was brought up with certain beliefs that practically determined the course of a life. The consequences of that upbringing eventually become clear.


Review

Somehow, although it seems ordinary enough, the prologue – just half a page of it – provides immediate drama. The year is 1974 and two men escort a child through the streets of Moscow to an apartment block, where they meet a man who has 'a ruined face', which seems vaguely familiar to the child. He welcomes the young visitor and it is immediately clear that this meeting is a significant event in both their lives.

The opening chapter continues in this dramatic vein, although it appears to have no connection with the prologue and is set in the present day. A Russian in the SVR, codenamed Heathcliff, is caught in an old-style honey trap and is then blackmailed by Marcus, who claims to work for an intelligence service in the west. Heathcliff is informed that unless he supplies him with Russian intelligence material, Moscow centre will be led to believe that he is a spy. He has no choice but to accept, particularly when he is paid handsomely for the information he hands over.

It isn't long before we are on what at first sight appears to be a completely different track.  This time, however, we are in Andalusia and we are introduced to an elderly woman who lives alone, though there are references to a child. She is working on a memoir but is finding it difficult. What she has so far concerns a man with whom she had a baby, but who later deserted her. There is one link with the prologue. As she does her shopping she counts her steps from one point to another – a habit possessed also by the child in the prologue.

Daniel Silva makes use of this apparently disconnected method of story-telling throughout the first part of the book. It happens to such an extent that it is easy to end up in danger of losing the plot and being obliged to backtrack. Compounding this somewhat confusing method is the fact that the story takes place in so many locations. However, there are always enough clues to keep the careful reader interested in what is to happen next.

What, in fact, happens next – in the second half of the book – is a noticeable quickening of the pace as British and Israeli Intelligence officers combine – very unofficially – to locate a mole within MI6.  In a previous novel we had been told how Gabriel Allon became the Chief of Mossad, replacing Uzi Navot who, unusually, became his willing deputy. It seems, however, that Gabriel, who had always been active, cannot resist becoming heavily involved in trying to identify and then to arrest the mole – an operation in which Uzi who’s also tired of life behind a desk – is happy to join.

In fact, these characters from previous Silva novels are not strictly required in this one and the story could easily have been based on MI6 exclusively without losing any of its essential espionage interest. Certainly such a simplification would have been welcome and, in the light of what eventually transpires, might have been more appropriate. This, however, is not a criticism and the second part of the book in particular is engrossing and thoroughly convincing as Allon begins to close in on the mole.

Reviewed 24 November 2018 by Arnold Taylor