Archive for the ‘espionage’ Category

Running title: Gray Day – My Undercover Mission To Expose America’s First Cyber Spy

This title appeared in one of our earlier monthly non-fiction book lists that we use to determine which books we should buy for our library branches. There is a good possibility that I may have selected this book but somehow forgot about its existence … until I came across it in the stacks. And then the memory floodgates opened and I remembered salivating like a Pavlovian dog on the synopsis. I need to get out more. And since I was “jonesing” for a book to read and simply grabbed this for my literary “fix”. But enough with the drug allegories and other such bollocks and on with the bloomin review. Yeah?

I do remember when this story broke back in the early 2000s, it was quite the shitstorm. Robert Hanssen, was one of the biggest moles, in American history, who sold secrets to the Russians and compromised much of America’s tactical strategies against our enemies. On the bad side of things (yes, you are reading right) he compromised the lives of many agents and Russian defectors. Needless to say, America was tremoring for months after this broke through and for that period I was curious about this.

Eric O’Neill was an FBI “ghost”, agents capable of efficiently hunting and capturing spies and intelligence traitors. He was also newly married to Julianna, a former citizen of (then) East Germany. Something that he did not disclose to his superiors and got him sidelined for about year. Apparently, having romantic dalliances with women from former Communist countries whilst working for the US government was frowned upon … compromised security and all that good stuff. Then one day, he was suddenly enlisted on a spy hunting mission. The target, one of their own: Robert Hanssen. Robert Hanssen, at the time, was selected (also off the sidelines) to start (get this) the FBI’s first cybercrime unit. In other words this was more than the fox guarding the henhouse; he was bloody building the henhouse, too. The mission, should he choose to accept it (and thankfully did) was to work as subordinate of Hanssen and observe him. Oh right, Hanssen is also a master spy that is very elusive (for more than a decade) and this might be the Bureau’s last chance to nail his sorry ass (no pressure). And there begins the intense cat and mouse game. The problem is that as you progress throughout the book you start to question who is the real cat or mouse and yes … this perspective will change a few times during your reading. Now if you are expecting to read a boring book about some bloke observing a traitorous tosser, you are in for a shocker. Despite the knowledge of how this story ended, Gray still retains that icy grip of a thrilling, suspense-riddled spy novel (Jason Bourne be damned) that makes every page hard to resist turning and sometimes waging a battle with insignificant things like eating, sleeping or using the bathroom. There are some jaw-dropping revelations that appear in this book and it does not favour the FBI about the numerous times the Bureau may have dropped the ball that could have easily ended Hanssen’s long spree. Much earlier. Thankfully the Bureau have learned and has evolved. And as O’Neill struggles with the task on one hand and his law studies on the other, his homefront begins to take a beating. Odd hours at work, mostly due to a “broken server”, being distant in conversation and strange phone calls are putting a strain on his new marriage. He is unable to discuss his work with a woman he is terminally in love with and this begins the slow unravelling on both sides. Robert Hanssen comes off as an arrogant, covertly-cocky, know-it-all that will solicit very little or no sympathy from most readers.
Gray Day is, subtly, a tribute to the folks that work at the FBI and what they do. Yes, apparently it is more than interviewing serial killers that have a penchant for Chianti and fava beans.Most of all it gives a snapshot of the toll and the cost that many of the agents have to pay for the sake of protecting this beautiful country despite some of the bollocks, concerning their abilities, that have been floating around on the airwaves during a certain investigation that involves a certain far east country (there I said it). Jolly good show, Mr. O’Neill, and thanks for your service.

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Will Robie is a very efficient assassin that works for the US government. There is no job too hard or tough that he can’t accomplish and he’s extremely resourceful. He is also the consummate professional: follows orders, no questions asked, complete the task/mission at hand. If you were stuck in a windowless and doorless box at the bottom of the Marianas Trench, he’d find a way inside to kill you. Of course, if you were stuck in a windowless/doorless box in the bottom of the Marianas Trench, you’d probably die of suffocation … and the possibility of the box crushing you due to the deep sea pressure at that depth. Aye, I guess Will won’t have to do much on that mission.. I have detoured … oh so slightly. When Robie is sent on a mission to kill woman in Washington, many red flags rise in Robie’s mind (since most of his assignments often involved enemies of the countries … in other words foreign wankers that deserve what’s coming to them). During the mission, he realizes that the something stinks more than year-old, unrefrigerated, brie cheese, when he notices that there were two young children at the mission sit e and they were supposed to be “collateral damage”. So in deciding against his orders things (rapidly) go south and soon Robie realizes that he is a marked man. On the run Robie, encounters a runaway named Julie Getty, on a bus, that is being stalked by … let’s just say … some tosser with very ill intentions concerning Julie’s life. After dispatching the killer (think Schwarztnegger on the a plane scene in the early part of Commando … what … you haven’t seen Commando … seriously, mate? … check it out … and Rae Dawn Chong is quite the bird in it … bloody hell … I’ve detoured … again), he escapes with Julie off the bus just in time to watch it explode. Soon Robie finds that his world along with Julie’s are more intertwined in the most diabolical designs of fate. To make things worst, Robie is joined with FBI super-agent Nicole Vance to investigate the bus bombing that HE survived. Needless to say, Vance has no idea that Robie was part of the crime scene and a delightful game of cat and mouse ensues, as Robie tries to keep ahead of Vance to hide his involvement. Think just about any episode of Dexter, where Dexter tries to outfox the Miami-Dade police on some of his handiwork.
An intriguing tale, Innocent keeps the reader guessing and at the edge of their seat where everything and everyone aren’t what they all seem to be. The action is quick, vicious but well paced. And Julie Getty, the runway, is not your typical teenager that seemingly keeps both Vance and Robie on their toes. Excellent read, and it is to my knowledge that this is one of many Robie books. I am eagerly looking forward to reading more about this Robie bloke. He intrigues me. And yes, queue up Commando on Netflix. It’s awesome, especially how he breaks that bloke’s neck on the plane. And you’d probably appreciate a cute Alyssa Milano. And yes, Rae Dawn Chong.

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Madeliene Hart is a rising star in London politics. Well educated and politically savvy, she soons finds herself working as an aide to the prime minister. On a trip, with friends, to sun-drenched Corsica Ms. Hart disappears and the male resident at 10 Downing Street receives a package with an omnious message: you have seven days or the girl dies. Now one will think that this is where Interpol, MI5 and/or MI6 are called in. Not quite. Enter Gabriel Allon, art forger/restorer, and the Israeli version of James Bond minus the shaken martinis and fancy tux bollocks, and is actually in a monogamous relationship with a woman named Chiara. Oh, did I mention that Chiara is also a very well-trained and formidable Mossad agent? Now as much as I love Jamesy-old-by, Mr. Allon (as Emril would say) puts it up a noch … or two. With a deadline on the horizon, Allon and his team of elite Mossad agents find themselves criss-crossing the globe from the criminal underworld of Marseilles to the icy-cold, vodka-tainted-vomit encrusted streets of Moscow.
Silva’s English Girl is fast moving, visceral thrill ride, on a razor’s edge, in the smoke and mirror world of covert espionage where friends can be enemies and vice versa, and most things can’t be taken a face value. Betrayals leap out of the shadows where you least expect and there are more twists and turns than a non-linear David Lynch flick (aye, I’m still trying delete the memory of Lost Highway from my mind).

Confession time. I have been reading many of Silva’s Gabriel Allon novels and they are quite GOOD. I mean giving Jason Bourne a run for the money … GOOD. And now you’re probably asking … well how is it that the Evil Parrot hasn’t posted any of these books on this site? Some of you might even think that I was being a bit stingy on keeping this to myself. Well the truth is that I was being a lazy tosser and I was busy catching up on back-to-back Dexter episodes on DVD (sorry I can only afford basic cable) during the times I was reading these books. I believe Breaking Bad and Criminal Minds are also to blame for this. The damn telly. Damn you Heisenberg, you loveable crystal meth cooking rogue.

Now I know you might think that you might need to catch up on stuff before you get to this novel (and it is a lot of reading) but the good news is that Silva has this unique and delightful way of doing a “recap” (aye, see that’s what happens when you watch too much series on DVD on the telly … sigh …) that pretty much brings everyone up to date with the life Gabriel Allon. However, a penance I will list all the Gabriel Allon books (in order) for you to personally enjoy … and if you can appreciate action-filled espionage, I promise you will devour these books. And yes, I will manage my time better … since I’m currently watching back-to-back seasons of the Dead Zone on Netflix (or as I call it Netfix).

And as promised (me being a good chap and all) the Gabriel Allon prequels:
The English Assassin
The Confessor
Kill Artist
A Death In Vienna
Prince Of Fire
The Messenger
Secret Servant
Moscow Rules
The Defector
The Rembrandt Affair
Portrait Of A Spy
The Fallen Angel

Happy reading, mates.

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Will Cochrane is a highly trained intelligence officer and is one of the most effective and deadliest agent, codenamed Spartan, to have emerged from the CIA-MI6 Spartan program. As Russia and the United States stands on the brink of war, the CIA intercepts a message from one of their deep cover agents in Russia, that there is a double agent that has betrayed the West and is seeking to create something close to a nuclear apocalypse (don’t you just hate that?). After Will Cochrane is sent in, covertly, to possibly exfil and debrief the agent, he, instead, finds the agent near death (well, actually quite gutted but holding onto life) who offers a final clue: Only the Sentinel can stop him. Hence the title of the book.
Now I must say that this book literally called to me. Yes, I know … bloody freaky. And for months I have ignored it, but I eventually gave in. To besides, there was a bear on the cover and I like bears. Though I probably shouldn’t say that too loud in places such as San Francisco … or a Stephen Colbert set. I have detoured. Aye, I tend to do that … a lot.

Sentinel opens with an edge-of-the-seat, nail-biter infiltration of a Russian submarine base by Cochrane. Nerve-wracking, bladder-clenching and cold sweat-invoking basically describes the first chapter which basically sets you up for what EVERY chapter is going to be like. And what a bloody great ride it is, from cover to cover. With plots so delicately interwoven, aside from Cochrane it has hard to figure out most of the characters and even when you think you do … you find out that you’re dead wrong. The action and intrigue are equally fast, vicious, and many times slams you in the chest like Thor’s hammer. The truth is Will Cochrane makes James Bond (whom I love very much) looks like a preening, cocktail-sipping, tuxedoed Sunday school teacher (sorry James, still love you mate). Possible equals on this side of the Atlantic: Jason Bourne, But that’s another story for another time, mates.

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