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Shake Off [Kindle Edition]

Mischa Hiller
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $5.01 (33%)
Sold by: Hachette Book Group

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Book Description

An internationally acclaimed thriller of love, espionage and subterfuge, in which Middle East meets West with dangerous consequences.

Years of training have transformed Michel Khoury into a skilled intelligence operative. A refugee whose family was murdered by extremists, he has one mission: the peaceful resolution of the Middle East conflict that upended his life.

An alluring enigma, he attracts the attention of Helen, a pretty English girl who lives in the adjacent apartment. As their relationship develops, Michel is unable to tell Helen about his past--or the collection of passports and unmarked bills he's concealed in the bathroom they share.

When Michel's secrets turn deadly, Helen and Michel find themselves pursued through the streets of London, Berlin and the Scottish countryside, on the run from the very people they thought they could trust.

A critically celebrated novel that "recalls the cool detachment and compelling eye for ordinary detail that characterized the early thrillers of Graham Greene" (Independent on Sunday), SHAKE OFF is that rare breed of riveting tale--of intrigue and suspense, love and betrayal--that announces a bold new voice for our increasingly global times.

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"SHAKE OFF absolutely blew me away. Hiller's novel has the benefit of mining every trope of the thriller genre while being absolutely original at the same time. I will read anything by Hiller from now on."—Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker (Best Books of 2012)

"Hypnotic ... A spy thriller of the highest class."—Charles Cumming, New York Times bestselling author of The Trinity Six

"Contemplative and consistently intriguing."—Adam Woog, The Seattle Times

"Poignant and human. ... a unique and engaging voice ... deftly drawn ... Powerful and thought-provoking, this is a book that stays with the reader. Mr Hiller's Shake Off is hard to shake off."—The Economist

"Superbly written. Hiller writes believably of the world of undercover spies, both about the practicalities--picking locks, coding messages, using false identities--and the atmosphere of constant paranoia, continual double-dealing and amorality. An entertainingly complex, quick-moving psychological thriller."—Kirkus Reviews

"SHAKE OFF carries the conviction of authentic espionage tradecraft on every page. Imagine John Le Carré combined with Ken Follett. Smart and tense and real enough to be scary."—David Morrell, New York Times bestselling author of First Blood and Creepers

"A beautifully written novel that chronicles the education of a spy...sensitive and realistic."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Le Carré said we live in 'coded times,' and SHAKE OFF is a book that takes that idea to hypnotizing levels. A novel about identity and sadness and love, it is also a hellaciously entertaining chase thriller. But the achievement of the novel rests in its orphan main character; Michel is a great character, one of the finest heroes I've seen in the spy genre simply because he is like so many of us, desperately searching for who he is and where he came from. This is a novel that is as much about personhood as it is about tradecraft, and it succeeds on both counts. My highest recommendation."—Will Lavender, New York Times bestselling author of Obedience and Dominance

"Arresting. As much about human longing as derring-do. More than enough tradecraft, suspense, and double-dealing...in common with the writings of Graham Greene and John le Carré."—Booklist

"The best spy novels not only spin a great story, they also take us into the minds of characters who are mysteries even to themselves. SHAKE OFF is as deceptive as it is perceptive, an intimate portrait of a man veering away from one tragedy and possibly straight into another one."—Thomas Mullen, author of The Revisionists

"In the best Le Carre tradition ... Hiller brings to his work not only a craftman's skill but also a compassion for his characters that proves infectious."—Haaretz (Israel)

"Ingeniously plotted and skillfully paced ... interlaces compelling human stories with political espionage. The suspense builds until the very end."—Saudi Gazette (Saudi Arabia)

"Successfully mixes the suspense and fast pace of a spy story with a set of complex, compelling characters and unexpected situations."—The Jordan Times (Jordan)

"Gripping [and] taut ... recalls the cool detachment and compelling eye for ordinary detail that characterized the early thrillers of Graham Greene."—Independent on Sunday (UK)

"Melancholy and dreamlike, Hiller's neat upending of conventions movingly captures the realpolitik of a conflict perpetrated by the shared interests of enemies."—Telegraph (UK)

"Excellent ... A fast-moving, literate thriller."—Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)

Review

"Hypnotic ... A spy thriller of the highest class." (Charles Cumming, New York Times bestselling author of The Trinity Six )

"SHAKE OFF carries the conviction of authentic espionage tradecraft on every page. Imagine John Le Carré combined with Ken Follett. Smart and tense and real enough to be scary." (David Morrell, New York Times bestselling author of First Blood and Creepers )

"A beautifully written novel that chronicles the education of a spy...sensitive and realistic." (Publishers Weekly (starred review) )

"Le Carré said we live in 'coded times,' and SHAKE OFF is a book that takes that idea to hypnotizing levels. A novel about identity and sadness and love, it is also a hellaciously entertaining chase thriller. But the achievement of the novel rests in its orphan main character; Michel is a great character, one of the finest heroes I've seen in the spy genre simply because he is like so many of us, desperately searching for who he is and where he came from. This is a novel that is as much about personhood as it is about tradecraft, and it succeeds on both counts. My highest recommendation." (Will Lavender, New York Times bestselling author of Obedience and Dominance )

"Poignant and human. ... a unique and engaging voice ... deftly drawn ... Powerful and thought-provoking, this is a book that stays with the reader. Mr Hiller's Shake Off is hard to shake off." (The Economist )

"The best spy novels not only spin a great story, they also take us into the minds of characters who are mysteries even to themselves. SHAKE OFF is as deceptive as it is perceptive, an intimate portrait of a man veering away from one tragedy and possibly straight into another one." (Thomas Mullen, author of The Revisionists )

"In the best Le Carre tradition ... Hiller brings to his work not only a craftman's skill but also a compassion for his characters that proves infectious." (Haaretz (Israel) )

"Ingeniously plotted and skillfully paced ... interlaces compelling human stories with political espionage. The suspense builds until the very end." (Saudi Gazette (Saudi Arabia) )

"Successfully mixes the suspense and fast pace of a spy story with a set of complex, compelling characters and unexpected situations." (The Jordan Times (Jordan) )

"Gripping [and] taut ... recalls the cool detachment and compelling eye for ordinary detail that characterized the early thrillers of Graham Greene." (Independent on Sunday (UK) )

"Melancholy and dreamlike, Hiller's neat upending of conventions movingly captures the realpolitik of a conflict perpetrated by the shared interests of enemies." (Telegraph (UK) )

"Excellent ... A fast-moving, literate thriller." (Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) )

Product Details

  • File Size: 982 KB
  • Print Length: 289 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 031620420X
  • Publisher: Mulholland Books (August 14, 2012)
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006L8934O
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #316,716 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Ever wonder how publishers decide how to market books? For example, how to decide whether to feature a book as a "thriller" instead of, say, a "deeply moving novel of love and loss"? Mischa Hiller's novel, Shake Off, raised questions like that in my mind.

Michel Khoury, a bright young man with a rare gift for languages, is recruited from a foster home at the age of 15 to be educated and trained in the USSR by the PLO. It is now the late 1980s, with the Soviet empire crumbling and Yasser Arafat holding on to power in the Palestinian diaspora. For some years now, Michel has been serving as a courier, an accomplished polyglot shuttling from Berlin to London to Geneva to Athens and Istanbul under the control of an older man named Abu Leila ("Father of Leila"), a surrogate father figure. Living in what the English call a "bed-sit," a single room sans kitchen down the hall from a bathroom, Michel masquerades as a student at the School of Oriental and African Studies, taking language courses he doesn't need. When he meets Rachel, a beautiful young doctoral student in anthropology living next door, he finds himself increasingly drawn to her just as disaster strikes a courier he has enlisted in London. Soon, Michel finds himself the subject of interest by intelligence agencies of indeterminate origin -- possibly more than one of them, and probably including Mossad -- and is forced to dodge the increasingly familiar figures who are following him.

As a novel written by a Palestinian whose protagonist is a survivor of the 1982 Israeli-Phalangist massacres in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, Shake Off does a decent job conveying the profound sense of loss and the lingering terror that live on in Michel Khoury. However, the book was marketed as a "spy thriller." Thrilling it wasn't.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Palestinian intrigue August 12, 2012
Format:Hardcover
Intifada has its origin in an Arabic word meaning "to shake off"; hence the title. By the novel's end, shaking off his past (and possibly his codeine addiction) will be Michel Khoury's greatest challenge.

Although he carries a Lebanese passport (among others), Khoury is a Palestinian. He was born in a refugee camp in Beirut where his parents were murdered by Lebanese Phalangists. As a result of that experience (as well as his admiration of Primo Levi's writing), Khoury comes to identify with Jewish victims of atrocities and to understand that "no suffering is unique" while at the same time resenting the loss of his own feeling of uniqueness.

While Khoury is in foster care, he is recruited by a shadowy figure named Abu Leila, given an education, and trained in the techniques of espionage. Leila tells Khoury that he will be working as an undercover PLO agent. Although he has trained Khoury to be wary of "the competition" (Israel), Leila clearly has his own agenda and seems to be harbor some resentment of Arafat's approach to leadership.

Things go wrong for Khoury after he takes delivery of an envelope in London and brings it to Leila in Berlin. Although the contents of the envelope are a mystery to Khoury (and to the reader), it soon becomes apparent that the envelope will create trouble for both men. The mystery is a good one; I was surprised by the revelation that comes when the envelope is finally opened.

Mischa Hiller adds a love story (and a fling story) to flesh out this novel of intrigue, although the love story is uninspired, standard fare for a spy novel. Hiller avoids the obvious ending that I feared in favor of a more nuanced resolution. Apart from Khoury, the characters lack depth.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Shake Off January 20, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Shake Off was a fine book for the first half or more, but then becomes filled with loose strands of plot and character. The ending didn't work for me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating look at spycraft May 27, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
The mechanics and psychology of spycraft, embedded in a highly readable story, make this a fascinating read. Couldn't put it down! The ending was a little weak, but still the book, with its window into PLO thought, is still worth taking the time to write this review (!)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worthy read March 3, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Character driven and and well written, without excess and never forgetting the point of the story. I would highly recommend this book, not for the action or suspense, but for the examination of the main character's desire to belong and where it leads him.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Quick and Enjoyable May 31, 2014
By MoseyOn
Format:Hardcover
This book has been sitting on my shelf waiting for a time when I would need something that was engaging without being too challenging. This one fit the bill. It is a quick read, which is no small thing for a slow reader like me to say. The backdrop for Hiller’s spy novel is the late Cold War (locations include both East and West Berlin, as well as Moscow and London), but the immediate reality is PLO vs. Mossad intrigue. Michel Khoury is a PLO operative recruited at a young age by Abu Leila, his mysterious handler who seems to know much more than he is willing to share. While carrying out his assignment under the guise of being a student, Michel becomes romantically involved (naturally) with an anthropology Ph.D. student who (naturally) happens to rent a room next to his. So the stage is set with the normal espionage thriller elements. Who can be trusted? Whose motives are what they say they are, and who is just playing the game? Which side are the bad guys on? And so on. But while the elements are familiar, Hiller does a nice job of deploying them in a story that is not overly complex, but has just enough political intelligence to make it slightly more than a plot-only thriller. Slightly. There’s always a pursuit in these novels, but I liked the one here because although it had high stakes, it didn’t overpower the rest of the story. The obligatory twist that helps resolve the plot was unexpected, and it worked. The relationship between Michel and Helen seems to be based mostly on sex and jealousy, which actually, for my money, makes their relationship pretty shallow. More development of that relationship would have made the book more satisfying. Do I recommend the book? It depends on what you want. There are a lot of other things to read. But I found it reasonably enjoyable, and it provided the bridge I needed between books.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting. Read the last 75% in a single evening.
By the time I was a quarter of the way through this book I was hooked. I stayed up until 2:00 in the morning the second night I'd been reading it to finish it. Read more
Published 7 months ago by nothanksplz
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent Thriller
Thrillers are a guilty pleasure of mine, but this one was original and intelligent. If you get your information on the middle east conflict strictly from the news media, you'll be... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Joan Jacobson
4.0 out of 5 stars GoodRead
Very well done, suspenseful and intriguing.
I mostly enjoyed the main character's discovery, about his heritage, and himself as a person.
Published 8 months ago by Mother Mary
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Book
Good reading when you have nothing else to do. It was a little boring at the first but got much better about 1/3 if the way through.
Published 9 months ago by gene
4.0 out of 5 stars A Classic Spy Story
"Shake Off" (SO) is the second of Mischa Hiller's two novels. SO is about a young Palestinian man who was recruited some years ago by Abu Leila, following the murder of Michel's... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Kenneth C. Mahieu
4.0 out of 5 stars I need to read this book a second time.
I read Shake Off quickly and after a book group discussion, realize that I need to read it again and pay better attention to the characters.
Published 11 months ago by mary ann cosgrove
5.0 out of 5 stars Suspense at its best
A REAL. Page TURNER and a very good read. I could not put it down. Makes one wonder what really goes on in Middle East. The
Published 11 months ago by Joy Keces
4.0 out of 5 stars How your life can be changed!
Interesting to read how the effects of a refugee camp impacted this man - exciting read, never knowing where the twists of this novel would go
Published 12 months ago by goddess
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the best spy stories out there
Misha Hiller has pulled off a very good spy story with excellent writing. While I suspected which way it was going, he still managed to make me doubt my analysis. Read more
Published 12 months ago by P. Fox
5.0 out of 5 stars strongly recommended
Very well written. Excellent character development. Very interesting plot. Pulls you and reveals avery complex reality. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Nancy Drew
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More About the Author

Mischa Hiller was born in the UK in 1962 and grew up in London, Beirut, and Dar El-Salaam. Mischa won the 2009 European Independent Film Festival script competition for his adaptation of 'Sabra Zoo.' He lives in Cambridge, UK.

'Sabra Zoo,' published in the US on September 2010, has been short listed in the regional section for South Asia and Europe of the Commonwealth Writer's Prize, internationally recognised for its role in celebrating ground-breaking works from both new and established writers.

Visit www.mischahiller.com for more information.

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