Previous Post
Next Post


Reader William C. Montgomery writes:

Although the Gabriel Allon series by Daniel Silva, now in its sixteenth volume, is outstanding, it had become like a television detective procedural: predictable and safe, only with different bad guys. The Black Widow, Silva’s latest, is refreshingly different.

The Black Widow is the nineteenth novel by Daniel Silva, a reformed journalist. The lead character in his last sixteen books is an Israeli secret service agent with a license to kill named Gabriel Allon. Like Ian Fleming’s British secret service officer, Silva’s hero is personally tortured by the ruthless work he performs in defense of his homeland.

The Black Widow refers to the wives left behind by radical Islamic extremists who sacrifice themselves for the sake of jihad. It involves terror plots planned, supported and manned by radicalized European Muslims hailing form ghettos in Belgium and France. The fictitious action Silva concocts of are eerily similar to real world events that occurred while the book was in production.

Silva was in the midst of writing this book when terrorists took the lives of 130 people in Paris. And this book was nearing completion when bombs rocked the Brussels airport and Maalbeek metro station, taking another 32 innocents. Due to the close similarities of plot elements to actual events, Silva considered rewriting this book out of respect for those who died and their survivors. Ultimately Silva stuck with the original story, careful to avoid anything that might be construed as exploitative.

Precious few thriller writers take care with their prose – most are about as interesting to read as the ingredients on a box of cereal. Silva is no Fitzgerald, Hemingway or Steinbeck, but his efforts elevate his books above those of many of his modern contemporaries.

Silva’s three-dimensional characters are always a step above the crowd. Nonetheless, in recent works Silva has utilized descriptions of recurrent secondary characters that could have been copied and pasted from prior books. This practice ended with The Black Widow, in which these characters are introduced in fresh new ways.

In Widow Silva introduces us to Natalie Mizrahi, a French-born doctor of Algerian-Jewish descent, whom Allon assigns a high-risk deep cover operation. Natalie is the true star of the book.

Silva consults with real life intelligence officers when researching his novels. These agents describe their work as long periods of tedium punctuated by moments of shear terror. While true to life, incorporating that reality into a novel doesn’t often make for gripping prose. At times in past works, Silva’s books have crept along. This too has been improved in Widow. The tempo here is allegretto through the early pages with a stringendo to allegro at the climax. In other words, this book is a real page turner. R.I.P. Robert Ludlum.

From a gun aficionado’s point of view, Silva has [finally] fully transitioned his characters from wielding Berettas to GLOCKs. A CZ also makes a cameo appearance. My only complaint is the repeated cringe-worthy references to “AR-15 assault rifles.”

The Black Widow is Daniel Silva’s best book to date. It’s well crafted in every regard and breaks out of the rut of his prior recent efforts. The timing of this book couldn’t be better given the current condition of world affairs. Read it.

Previous Post
Next Post


  1. What’s the level of continuity in this series? Is each one a self-contained story, or is it all part of the same arc?

    • They largely share the same cast of characters and have some old jokes and depictions hat had been overused, as noted here

      Any book can be picked up and read more or less independently, and references to backstory in them might be moderately confusing or might have just an air of mystery to the backstory

      The earlier books or at leas the first were very nuanced, pro Israel but also showing awareness of the dysfunction of camps and its impact on people

      The later ones are more black and white jingoistic, possibly as his sources became more bold or strident. I particularly disliked his portrayal of a democrat Obama like figure vacillating and refusing to call in drone strikes in an allied country territory, when a more fair critique of Obama’s drone policy would be that he has claimed for himself the right to assassinate his own definition of terrorists, including American citizens (who may well deserve it but still) and rather aggressive use of drones, and also his arguably reckless raid in ally Pakistan to get bin laden

      The writing thereby appeared to me to merely reflect neocon and Israeli hatred and propaganda which was offputting and different from how he started

      The Arab characters became more caracturized as well

      • Yes horrible how Silva treats Dear Leader isn’t it? jingoistic – When libtards try to impress with their useless humanities degree.

    • Wow you are subhuman huh? People died and that’s the best you can do, make some political dig. WTF does that have to do with guns you psychopath? No wonder people hate gun rights folks

      • Apparently you have not been paying attention to the Left — or maybe you are part of that crowd since your first sentence began with ad hominem attack. Typical

        Before the bodies were laid to rest in Orland, the Left came out to ban guns. It was gun control and sit in as soon as they could rush in front of a camera. Blumenthal rushed so quickly to the cameras that his shirt was hanging out and tie was crooked. There was no sensitivity there.

        Gun rights people will be hated simply because “guns” and the political narrative of the day. While my thoughts go out for these people, nothing will stop the Left from spinning this in some way for gun control. They are the ones constantly throwing up the bloody shirt and using the dead for political pawn.

        People died and there is not a damn thing I can do about it except to make a political statement that the policies of Leftist governments have pretty much stoked the fires that have lead to this tragedy.

        • You making a joke out of people dying is not on the same level as calling for a ban on guns. If you can’t see that you’re either a complete moron or so insecure that you shouldn’t be allowed access to the internet or even the outside world. Also, don’t act as though you represent me, the right, or gun rights supporters. You don’t. You represent the kind of radical extremists who join ISIS and blow up children. Eat $hit then die from eating $hit.

      • The terrorist was shooting out of the truck as running down his victims. Grow up Martha.

  2. Side note, someone with a truck in France just killed 30 people by ramming it into a crowd.

      • Thanks for this review. I’m a big spy fan, and I read a Daniel Silva book a long time ago but wasn’t impressed. Now that I’m writing on a spy fiction topic, I will give this series a second chance. Unfortunately, I am on a tight deadline and will be turning to for professional help in writing this paper. But for my next project, I will read some books and maybe start with The Black Widow. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I read a book recently that described a lot of detail about guns and it had a really good plot, but I haven’t been able to find any in stores anywhere. I own it digital, but still don’t have a paperback yet. The book is called “The Devil and a Whisper.” by Jeremy Slezak. Author seemed like he knew what he was talking about. Off the top of my head, they mentioned a colt delta elite, FAL, and a CZ75. Would recommend picking it up.

  4. Silva is one of my two favorite modern authors, the other being John Sandford, and both his Lucas Davenport series and his Virgil Flowers series. I am about 2/3 though The Black Widow now and really enjoying it.

    • Black Widow is a page turner and plot is scary. It is my first Silva novel so, “Yes,” it is readable as a stand alone novel. I was entertained and recommend it.

  5. Haven’t read fiction in many years. THIS was quoted on Fox news earlier this evening. Prescient in it’s eerie predictions.Maybe I could take a gander. Reality sucks. So sad…

  6. You sound like a lefty not funnystuff.
    It has been people of the left that have mostly been the mass killers in this country. Or Muslims that vote democrat. Like you, very angry, and wanting other people to die, “drowning in shit”.

  7. I’m amazed that the person who wrote “Black Lives Matter” actually could spell.

    That being said I have read all of Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon books and I just finished “Black Widow” and it was wonderfully fleshed out but the ending left me disappointed.

    I’m sure Saladin is going to be the next book but I would have preferred Silva to delightfully plot his demise and his cohorts in this book.

    Other than that I have to give the book an A-. Well done

  8. Wasn’t the book black widow based on true story of Barbara Allred and her husband in homestead fl and she was imprisoned in Julia tutwiler women’s prison wetumpka al and escaped while on a weekend pass and froze to death on the front porch of old house my father and her husband around 1967( ?) Worked together in homestead fl for usda department of agriculture

Comments are closed.