Portrait of a Spy (Audio) - Simon Vance, Daniel Silva

On this, my 4th Gabriel Allon book, it has finally dawned on me that [a:Daniel Silva|29085|Daniel Silva|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1240154365p2/29085.jpg] has told me essentially the same story four different ways. Or he may be iterating on a theme as he tries to write the perfect novel that so far remains resolutely locked in his creative mind. I can point to several repeating elements in these books: Allon is drawn out of retirement, a new bad guy is introduced, Allon gathers together his team from the Office, a neophyte spy is recruited, Allon prepares a detailed operation at an exotic locale, said operation goes seriously awry, and finally, Allon performs heroically to salvage the situation.

All of these elements are present in [b:Portrait of a Spy|9975779|Portrait of a Spy (Gabriel Allon, #11)|Daniel Silva|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1301657569s/9975779.jpg|14870169]. The neophyte is a billionaire Arab heiress who desires to change the course of Muslim and world history by fighting against terrorism (or its PC equivalent, extremism) instead of supporting it. She is not as compelling as the Jewish holocaust survivor of [b:The Rembrandt Affair|7096123|The Rembrandt Affair (Gabriel Allon, #10)|Daniel Silva|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348557282s/7096123.jpg|7353253], but is a nifty symbolic figure for the aspired change in Middle East politics. The new bad guy is an heir apparent to Binladen, while the locale is a Dubai in the throes of financial meltdown.

This could really be a boring series, considering the repeating elements (Suarez even uses the same paragraphs in the buildup) but, in fact, and contrary to what one may expect, the book and the series are both quite inveigling. Suarez engages the reader with lively prose and astute observations on a variety of topics including classical paintings, world affairs, and religion. Then salts the whole mix with gravely, conflicted characters. Everyone has angst. The only whiteboard characters are the villains who are invariably zealots and cold-hearted killers, demonstrating no doubts or conflicts at all.

Its true that the gloss starts to fade after 4 books, but there might still be enough to encourage me to pick another book or 2 in the series.