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The Unlikely Spy Mass Market Paperback – May 6, 2003

4.4 out of 5 stars 669 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In this debut novel, veteran journalist Silva mines the reliable territory of World War II espionage to produce a gripping, historically detailed thriller. In early 1944 the Allies were preparing their invasion of Normandy; critical to the invasion's success was an elaborate set of deceptions--from phony radio signals to bogus airfields and barracks--intended to keep Hitler in the dark about when and where the Allied troops would arrive. Catherine Blake is the beautiful, ruthless spy who could bring the whole charade crashing down; Alfred Vicary is the brilliant but bumbling professor Churchill has tapped to protect the operation. Along with a teeming cast of other characters, real and fictional, they bring the chase to a furious and satisfying climax. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Will Nazi spies escape from Britain with Allied plans for the imminent invasion of Normandy? As history tells us, obviously not?so the challenge for veteran journalist and CNN producer Silva in his first novel is to brew up enough intrigue and tension to make readers forget the obvious. While Silva employs multiple characters and settings, his key players are an English counterintelligence officer and a beautiful Nazi spy. Alfred Vicary is an academic recruited to work for MI5. The intelligence reports he fabricates and sends to Germany are designed to persuade the Nazis that their utterly compromised spy network, the Abwehr, is still fully operational. MI5 learns, however, that the Abwehr has been keeping a few sleeper operatives under deep cover throughout the war. Now they pose a serious threat to the invasion plans. One of these operatives is Catherine Blake, a ruthless assassin and spy. Her assignment is to become romantically involved with Peter Jordan, an American engineer working on a top-secret D-Day project. Will Vicary be able to stop her? Silva's characters are strong; but, despite occasional bursts of high suspense and a body count to remember, his overall pacing is uneven, and most readers won't forget that D-Day succeeded. The final plot twist, moreover, while unpredictable, seems more logical than shocking. Silva's debut will find an audience among devoted readers of WWII thrillers, and deservedly so, but he's not yet on a par with such masters of the genre as Ken Follett, Robert Harris and Jack Higgins. 150,000 first printing; $150,000 ad/promo; BOMC alternate selection; Reader's Digest Condensed Book selection; simultaneous BDD audio; foreign rights to 16 countries; author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Signet (May 6, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451209303
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451209306
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.6 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (669 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,812 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

He has been called his generation's finest writer of international intrigue and one of the greatest American spy novelists ever. Compelling, passionate, haunting, brilliant: these are the words that have been used to describe the work of #1 New York Times-bestselling author Daniel Silva.

Silva burst onto the scene in 1997 with his electrifying bestselling debut, The Unlikely Spy, a novel of love and deception set around the Allied invasion of France in World War II. His second and third novels, The Mark of the Assassin and The Marching Season, were also instant New York Times bestsellers and starred two of Silva's most memorable characters: CIA officer Michael Osbourne and international hit man Jean-Paul Delaroche. But it was Silva's fourth novel, The Kill Artist, which would alter the course of his career. The novel featured a character described as one of the most memorable and compelling in contemporary fiction, the art restorer and sometime Israeli secret agent Gabriel Allon, and though Silva did not realize it at the time, Gabriel's adventures had only just begun. Gabriel Allon appears in Silva's next nine novels, each one more successful than the last: The English Assassin, The Confessor, A Death in Vienna, and Prince of Fire, The Messenger, The Secret Servant, Moscow Rules, and The Defector. Silva's forthcoming novel, The Rembrandt Affair, will be published on July 20, 2010.

Silva knew from a very early age that he wanted to become a writer, but his first profession would be journalism. Born in Michigan, raised and educated in California, he was pursuing a master's degree in international relations when he received a temporary job offer from United Press International to help cover the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. Later that year Silva abandoned his studies and joined UPI fulltime, working first in San Francisco, then on the foreign desk in Washington, and finally as Middle East correspondent in Cairo and the Persian Gulf. In 1987, while covering the Iran-Iraq war, he met NBC Today National Correspondent Jamie Gangel and they were married later that year. Silva returned to Washington and went to work for CNN and became Executive Producer of its talk show unit including shows like Crossfire, Capital Gang and Reliable Sources.

In 1995 he confessed to Jamie that his true ambition was to be a novelist. With her support and encouragement he secretly began work on the manuscript that would eventually become the instant bestseller The Unlikely Spy. He left CNN in 1997 after the book's successful publication and began writing full time. Since then all of Silva's books have been New York Times and international bestsellers. His books have been translated in to more than 25 languages and are published around the world. Silva continues to reside in Washington with his wife and teenage twins Lily and Nicholas. When not writing he can usually be found roaming the stacks of the Georgetown University library, where he does much of the research for his books. He is currently at work on a new Gabriel Allon novel and warmly thanks all those friends and loyal readers who have helped to make the series such an amazing success.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
There are definite elements of Ken Follett's "Eye of the Needle" in Daniel Silva's "The Unlikely Spy". The most obvious is that Follett's bumbling spy was named Godliman, Silva's is named Vicary. But there are differences too - and those differences make Silva's book better than Follett's.
Most of the novels of this type follow a formula - Nazi spy, planted in England, uncovers the real facts about the Normandy invasion, and the brave, muddle-headed British intelligence officer must stop the spy before s/he gives it all away. Silva's novel follows this formula fairly well, but there's a very well-written story surrounding it.
Silva's plot is extremely detailed, and there are puzzles within puzzles, and plots within plots. Alfred Vicary is the proverbial (and in some cases literal) absent-minded professor, who shows a surprising streak of ruthlessness when it really matters; Catherine Blake is the Third Reich's ultimate weapon, who would rather not do what she's been doing for the last five years, but has no choice in the matter. These are the two main characters in a very well-done WWII spy novel.
This is Silva's first novel, and if it's any indication of things to come, he has a glorious career ahead of him. I do hope he doesn't restrict himself to this genre, though - if he does his books will grow very stale very fast.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Daniel Silva's "The Unlikely Spy" has more twists and turns than a corkscrew. This spine-tingling, historical espionage thriller is set in London, Germany and the US during World War II. The plot, and complex subplots, go back and forth in time and place, from the mid-1930s to the period before the invasion of Europe. Thus the scenario is set, and the novel's various characters are brought to life. These are the people who are involved in the Allies' invasion plans, and the Germans who plot to discover the top-secret information, and thwart the invasion. Many of the details and historical figures are accurately depicted, and realistically fleshed-out by Mr. Silva. Churchill, Hitler, Schellenberg, Himmler, Canaris and Eisenhower all have important roles in this action packed adventure - and their personas are fascinating.
Alfred Vicary is a primary character, and much of the story revolves around him. He is a brilliant professor and a noted historian, who was befriended by Churchill in 1935. At that time Churchill was warning Britain and Europe of the Nazi threat, but to no avail. The predominant political pundits of the day believed that Hitler, and Nazi Germany, were a good counterbalance to Stalin and the Soviet Union. Vicary wrote to Churchill, after hearing him lecture, to tell him that he agreed with his assessments. Churchill invited Vicary to his home, Chartwell, and they became close political confidants. In 1939 England's Prime Minister summoned Professor Vicary to his home, once again, to ask him to take a job in Military Intelligence for the duration of the war. Churchill tells the professor, "I need someone I can trust inside that department. It's time to put the 'intelligence' back in Military Intelligence.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Together with "Enigma" and "The Black Tulip" by Milt Bearden, and of course the George Smiley series by John Le Carre, this is one of my few really recommended fictional accounts related to espionage.

The art of lying to one's own people, at multiple levels of duplicity, some venal, much of it unnecessary, has helped to mystify, confuse, and sometimes glorify the intelligence profession.

As an intelligence professional myself, I will simply say that this is one of my top six and that it would not be called fiction if it did not depart for the pure realities as much as it does. This book captures the "essence" of duplicity within government in a time of war, and I find the whole book absolutely captivating and worthwhile.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
If you could only read one book that would epitomize the best in the spy genre, Daniel Silva's The Unlikely Spy would be that book. This is a fabulous, old-fashioned-style World War II thriller.

The unlikely spy is Alfred Vicary, a college professor of history and a friend of Prime Minister Winston Churchill. When war breaks out, Churchill convinces Vicary to take a sabbatical and go to work for MI5. This quiet, unassuming man finds that working to undermine the German spy network is a thrill. While the British are very successful in identifying and turning German spies, the MI5 discovers that an unidentified German spy is living in England. It is only when German communications are intercepted that the British realize they have a problem. Plans for the D-Day Invasion are in full swing, and the Germans are trying desperately to discover when and where it will occur. Vicary and his staff put on a full-court press to intercept this spy and to undo any damage that may compromise the Allied Invasion.

At 531 pages, The Unlikely Spy is not a piece of fluff. The characters are well-fleshed out and Silva's writing is at its best. He is especially good in describing the conflicted Vicary. While Vicary "was well suited intellectually to the actual business of intelligence, its very nature was abhorrent to him. He was a historian. By nature and training he was dedicated to searching out the truth. Intelligence was about lying and deception. About betrayal. About means justifying ends. About stabbing one's enemy in the back--and maybe stabbing a friend in the back, if necessary." He also tries to examine the psyche of the German spies. The two main spies in An Unlikely Spy are not so much committed to Germany and the Nazi cause, but they like the challenge. It becomes a game to them.

While I'm a big fan of Daniel Silva and especially, his Gabriel Allon series, The Unlikely Spy has become my favorite.
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