For those who know his work, Daniel Silva’s books have a breathless, ripped-from-the-headlines quality born from the author’s deep knowledge and experience in covering news across the global scene. Given the Russian bent of his newest novel, The Other Woman, it feels a lot more like dropping through a rabbit hole into another dimension.
The 18th installation to Silva’s Gabreil Allon spy saga rolls into bookstores today, and Silva shows up in the Bayou City this Sunday at Murder by the Book, a place he said he enjoys returning to.
“I love the fact that I got into [Murder By the Book] and the crowd is literally six inches from me,” he says. “I just love that place and can’t wait to go back.”
Silva’s signing takes place at 4 p.m., and everyone who buys a book from the store is able to have it signed by the author at the event. One of the bookstore’s most popular author events of the year, Sunday’s signing should mean big crowds. Line numbers for the signing were handed out staring on the day of the book’s release, July 17. Attendees are advised that parking and seating are first come, first served.
Readers have come to expect that Silva’s novels will hold a mirror to the world’s current events, but Silva said this year’s plot topic “chose itself.” The Other Woman finds spy and art restorer Gabriel Allon coming head-to-head with Russia following the death of one of his most-trusted assets. That death sets forth a chain of events that reveals a Russian mole hidden deep within one of the West’s most vaunted intelligence agencies—and Allon is the only one who can connect the dots.
Silva has written about Russia before, notably in 2008’s Moscow Rules and 2009’s The Defector, but The Other Woman takes on a very different tone. It reads, in many ways, like the Cold War atmospheric thrillers of John le Carré.
“This is a book I have wanted to write for a very long time,” Silva says. “It deals with today, obviously and the new Russia, the very aggressive Russia we’re confronting now. And certainly, it deals tangentially with some of the politics in our country. But at its core, it’s a story about Kim Philby.”
Philby was the legendary British trader, a Cambridge University student who became a communist and was later approached by the Russians to spy for them. He made his way into England’s intelligence community, sharing the country’s secrets with Russia throughout the decades from 1930s through his defection to the Soviet Union in 1963. In the 1950s, he was sent to Beirut as a foreign correspondent, and it’s his time there that Silva used as a jumping off point for his story. Silva said he’s always been fascinated by Philby’s story and liked the idea of using it for his own dramatic devices.
But that’s just the backdrop. The overarching concept in the book is that Russia is bad news. Period. Full stop.
“I deliberately chose Cold War settings and style to tell this story for a reason, and that is that the New Russia is a lot like the old Soviet Union. A lot of the techniques they’re using now against the West are very similar to techniques they used during the Cold War, and more importantly, preceding the Cold War, in the 1920s and 1930s.”
Readers can expect the same scope and sweep that Silva provides in his preceding Gabriel Allon novels in The Other Woman but will notice the writing is laced with the menacing foreboding of le Carré and Alan Furst. With action set in Vienna and Bern, Silva evokes a darker time; even the brightness of his Andalusia setting in Spain, where the character who is “the other woman” resides, feels less like sunny holiday and more shadowy, subdued.
For fans and newbies alike, The Other Woman should prove a potent addition to the Allon canon and showcases a creator at top form. And that creator has a foreboding message: “Russia is not a friend of the West. Russia is an adversary of the West. Russia wants its old empire back.”
July 22 at 4 p.m. Tickets $28.99 (book included). Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonnet St. 713-524-8597. More info at murderbooks.com.