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Shake Off by [Hiller, Mischa]
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Shake Off Kindle Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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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: 1335 KB
  • Print Length: 289 pages
  • Publisher: Mulholland Books (August 14, 2012)
  • Publication Date: August 14, 2012
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006L8934O
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #588,915 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mal Warwick on February 14, 2013
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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
"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 parents in a refugee camp. Abu has seen to Michel's training, both in spycraft and languages for which Michel has a natural talent. His training and early assignments lead him to Berlin, Moscow, and other capitals. Finally, he settles in a London bedsit awaiting his next assignment. He quickly meets the girl next door, a doll, to whom he is strongly attracted. He has been trained to limit his romances to no more than a week, but Helen is something else. And then there are assignments, and slip-ups, and the competition. Following a surprise assassination, Michele is on the run, and there is a betrayal - whom can he trust? Who is it that he really works for? An excellent novel, one of the better spy novels I have read in the last five years. I look forward to more from Hiller.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I started reading this book after trudging through two terrible books so maybe the contrast of competent writing in Shake Off made it seem epic but I really did enjoy it. I thought the main character was well developed and while his back story was meant to be somewhat mysterious, with fragments being revealed bit by bit, it became clear fairly early what had happened to him. The same goes for the plot twist at the end, it was fairly obvious well before the big reveal what was going to happen. For those less stunning pieces I took a star away from the review. Overall the writing was very good, the story well paced and I really did enjoy it. However the twists and turns were more or less predictable. Yet there is something really good in this book, the explanation of spy craft, the authentic feeling (not dramatized hollywood james bond) of an espionage agent in a foreign country was well done. I think this book is well worth a read and would recommend it.
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