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The Unlikely Spy
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Product Description

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.

In wartime," Winston Churchill wrote, "truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies." For Britain's counterintelligence operations, this meant finding the unlikeliest agent imaginable-a history professor named Alfred Vicary, handpicked by Churchill himself to expose a highly dangerous, but unknown, traitor. The Nazis, however, have also chosen an unlikely agent: Catherine Blake, a beautiful widow of a war hero, a hospital volunteer-and a Nazi spy under direct orders from Hitler to uncover the Allied plans for D-Day...

Customer Reviews:

  • What??? What was this all about?
    This seemed like a great novel till I got to the end. I don't want to give away anything about the conclusion, but I felt like I had been had, by the way this story wrapped up in the last few pages. I wondered a quite a bit about the sense (or senselessness?) of the whole plot for quite a few hours after I was done reading this novel. Mr. Silva has certainly written far better works than this......more info
  • Good Book
    Alfred Vivers works in "A rather dull office of the war ministry" at least that is what he has to tell everyone.

    In fact it is his job to safeguard one of the most vital secrets of the second world war just exactly where the troops are going to land. Not to mention the artificial harbors that are being constructed. A sleeper agent that has been in England since the 30's seeks to jeopardize all that. Now he must race against the clock to find the agent before she escapes England and reaches safety in Germany.

    The suspense level makes this a thoroughly enjoyable book....more info

  • A page turner
    I haven't read a book like this, a WWII espioage thriller, for ages, 20 years or something like that. A fiend of mine lend it to me 2 years ago and it had been firmly placed in my bookshelf.
    After reading a couple of more "serious" novels I felt like a reading a thriller and I picked it up.
    For the first 50 pages I really w¨®ndered if this was something for me, the I got hooked and finished it in a couple of days...

    Is a very exiciting, well-composed intrigue and a very enjoyable read. Sometimes I find his prose a bit lacklustre but I'm not bothered by it since this is primarily a suspense novel and as such it works very well indeed.
    Highly recommended...more info

  • A must read...
    This was an excellent spy novel. The Unlikely Spy is a book that I had an unusual amount of fun reading. This is a good book with some great characters, a good plot and the ending was very enjoyable. If you have any interest in espionage or WWII fiction, you can't miss this. It's right up there with Harris' "Fatherland" and "Enigma"....more info
  • Wonderfully WW2
    I cannot read enough on WW2, it was a time in our modern history that I believe could ever be dupicated. The whole world was at war and courage prevailed. This is the first book I have read of Daniel Silva's, I will continue to read all of them. His ploting, feeling of period, and intrigue would be hard to equal. I applaud this book and stand positive the rest will be as good....more info
  • Read It Twice
    This is one of my all-time favorite books, but I had to read it through again once I discovered the mechanisms behind the story. Not being overly familiar with what really goes on in MI-5, I found the subtleties intriguing, particularly in light of the comment that, in war, the truth is so precious that it must be surrounded by a bodyguard of lies. In this book, it is a reader's mind game to figure out the truth. Besides the obvious, I enjoyed my mental picture of Basil Boothby, career information officer and office womanizer, to be the most enjoyable....more info
  • Silva's Best
    I look forward to Daniel Silva's latest book each spring. I've never been disappointed. The Unlikely Spy is his first, and best. He develops both plot and characters, and paints the setting of WWII and London magnificantly. I've enjoyed each addition to Silva's work, but I'll always consider this his best. I've looked for similar works by other authors, but none have measured up....more info
  • Not a New Story
    I am amassed that the author could take this story line and get any new mileage out of it. As a matter of fact, from reading the dust jacket I though maybe another very similar book had just been re-titled, but becuase of all the good press I went ahead and picked it up. Sure we have some well used characters but the author does a good job of making you familiar with them. He keeps the story moving, the one thing I have noticed is that when author take on one of these time tested plots, they try to make it unique with either a completely unbelievable story line, they bog the book down with endless and un-need subplots, or they concentrate on some much character development they almost become biographies of a fictional person. This author does not do that. He wrote a tight, well constructed story that keeps you interested through the full book. I also read a lot of World War Two non-fiction and the author does a very good job with the details. Overall this is a very enjoyable book that is worth the time....more info
  • Satisfying and Cunningly Plotted
    Veteran journalist, Daniel Silva, makes his mark as a novelist with, "The Unlikely Spy," a quality World War II espionage thriller. The story centers on Britain's top plans for the D-Day invasion and Hitler's attempt to uncover the vital secret of the war; the time and place of the Anglo-American invasion of France.

    Working on behalf of Germany is the beautiful Catherine Blake, a ruthless Mata Hari type spy who will seduce, maim, and kill in order to help Nazi Germany achieve victory. Hand-picked by Winston Churchill himself is Alfred Vicary, a successful history professor. Vicary's job is to run "Operation Double Cross" for M15 England's couterespionage agency. It is known that Germany has spies stationed in England, but who they are and how to find and break them lands on the shoulders of Vicary. The war could easily be lost to Germany if vital information is leaked to Hitler. For Vicary, not only does he face the challenge of foreign enemies, but also he must deal with a few deceitful people in his own department, jealous of his designation by Churchill. The cat-and-mouse game begins to roll!

    Silva's book is not entirely original, you will see shades of Follet and Higgins throughout. Nonetheless, it is entertaining and the historical facts the story is based on are accurate. I believe Silva shows a lot of promise as a future force in the world of high-spy literature. With experience he should develop a style which is uniquely his own. He is definitely worth reading....more info

  • Variations on a theme by Follet
    On the verge of the Allied Invasion of Europe in 1944, the Allies were engaged in a massive deception program in which could have been ruined--changing the subsequent course of history--by a single credible report from a German spy. With overwhelming military power, the Germans had neglected espionage, and by 1944, virtually all German agents in England had been executed, imprisoned, or turned. Plans for the invasion included Operation Mulberry, a project to build temporary artificial harbors on the French coast. That was the actual historical situation.

    The story begins with the premise that the Germans have learned that bridge engineer Peter Jordan was playing a key, but unknown, role, and therefore they activate a "sleeper" agent (Catherine Blake, aka Anna Steiner), who had been in place since 1938, to discover Peter's role. Although the British had allegedly made the infiltration of new German spies virtually impossible, the Germans successfully and implausibly parachute in a new a new agent, Horst Neuman (aka James Porter), to act as a courier. Among a large cast of German intelligent agents, Kurt Vogel is the chief handler for the operation. Among a similarly large cast of British counterintelligence agents, former history professor Alfred Vicery leads the attempt to uncover the agents.

    If you take the premise that Ken Follet's "Eye of the Needle" is such a good story (it is) that it could benefit from being retold at five times the original length, by adding a dozen subplots (and the necessary several dozen new characters) as filler, the result would be something very much like "The Unlikely Spy". Naturally, you'd change the sex of the principal spy from male to female and make her bisexual to spice things up. Scenes in which an English detective tries to get help from idiotic village constables by phone are almost identical to corresponding scenes in "Eye of the Needle". The personal history, psychology, and modus operandi of "the Needle", appears to have been divided between "Catherine" and Horst, with minimal additional elaboration. Just as the "Needle" used a stiletto (i.e., a "needle")--as his weapon of choice, so did Catherine. Ultimately, the spies even attempt an escape by fishing boat, in a storm, while surrounded by English submarines and warships. There is nothing wrong with homages--although perhaps Silva should acknowledge his.

    The huge cast of characters in "Unlikely Spy" can be confusing to the reader. Most of the subplots and characters could be edited out in an abridged edition, with no effect what-so-ever on the story. READERS BEWARE--keeping a "dramatis personae" handy is required for most readers to keep track of the characters and thus the associated subplots. Despite the large cast of characters, or perhaps because of the large cast of characters, none are adequately fleshed out. I felt no particular empathy for any of them--something which is particularly needed when the plot drags, as it does for the last third of the novel.

    Of course, the spy has to make crucial mistakes, but the mistakes Catherine makes are implausible. Catherine is a stereotyped cold-blooded killer whose only solution to any problem is murder. For example, although born in England, and therefore presumably a British citizen, Catherine disguised her return to England in 1938, during peacetime, by murdering an English woman. For this and several subsequent unnecessary murders, Catherine used her signature stiletto-under-the-rib-cage-into-the-heart technique, essentially identifying herself as German spy, and tying all the murders together. As others have noted, the final twist greatly strains credulity.

    With these caveats, "The Unlikely Spy" is a very rich and entertaining novel.
    ...more info
  • Captures the Essence of Wheels within Wheels


    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.

    ...more info

  • The Best of Its Kind
    This book is a classic, full of great story telling, wonderful characters and a true sense of WW2 England. Daniel Silva, thank you and please keep writing. Looking through your reviews I understand why you have so many fans!...more info
  • The Unlikely Spy
    I have to say, this is probably the best mystery/espionage book I've read. The intricacies of the plot are numerous - but not difficult to follow. With more than one protagonist, it's almost a question as to who the unlikely spy really is. It also gives a superb sense of time and place in the descriptions of WWII London.

    I've read all of Silva's books and for my money, this is by far the best of his work, and much different from his later novels. If you like to read mysteries, I cannot recommend this one highly enough....more info

  • Unfolding layers of complexity
    This is an excellent example of its genre. The book begins slowly, with the introduction of numerous characters, but picks up pace throughout until you can't turn the pages fast enough. The characters are 3-dimensional and the relationships between them interesting enough to make you care what happens to them....more info
  • A fine WW II spy thriller
    This was my introduction to the work of Daniel Silva. I found the book very satisfying. As with any spy thriller, the narrative is filled with enough twists and turns to make you dizzy. The trick of alternating between the "present" and the "history" is carried off smoothly. I thought the multitude of characters, together with the flashbacks, would confuse me badly; it didn't. The progress of the plot was clear, without the mystifying vagueries that LeCarre used so effectively.

    The final unveiling of who-was-good-or-evil was a bit of a let-down, but the forward thrust of the narrative throughout was enough to make this a good read....more info
  • Vintage, Perfect Silva
    If Daniel Silva writes a Gabriel Allon novel, count me in. If you're a fan, it's a must read....aren't they all? I can't find anything to criticize about this adventure. They all seem vaguely familiar at times, but it's like coming home to visit an old friend. You know what to expect, but it's comfortable, enjoyable and mostly thrilling. This effort is perfect and well worth the readers time. If you're not a fan, this, or any of Silva's "Allon" novels will make you one. The action is ever-present, the characters are well-developed and the plot..while not always as unpredictable as some may prefer, is well-honed. Truly another great effort and a worthwhile read for fans of the genre....more info
  • The Spy Retains Her Mystery, and His, and His
    I was so taken with getting an early copy of The English Assassin that I went back and re-read the Unlikely Spy. Wow! It really does retain its pace, its sting, its sense of loss over almost every death and the drive of real emergency: do not count the cost, only see if there is still enough credit in the cosmic credit card to let you go on. It is really a smashing book, and its quality does not change even though you have been given a glimpse of the real twists and turns of the Body Guard of Lies....more info
  • Engrossing
    This novel about WWII spying, mainly the German attempts to
    penetrate British secrets relating to the coming invasion of
    Europe, is superb. The writing is first-class, and the plot
    moves along at speed at all times, and the characters on all
    sides are entertaining and plausible.
    There are sub-plots, and there are numberous characters in this
    story, but, unlike many such attempts, all these characters are
    fascinating, and when the story switches from one scenerio to
    another, the readers' interests continue unabated. The plot
    and sub-plots are complex enough, and properly entertaining,
    that the reader with proper interest will find this very difficult to put down to be picked up and resumed later.
    The story involves English professors who leave their quiet
    world of contemplation and study to go into a world of intrigue,
    lies, disinformation and danger, all while being all-to-aware
    of the passage of precious time that could spell the end of their civilization. Hitler and the Nazis occupy most of Europe,
    and they still have hopes of dominating the world at that time
    and for many years to come.
    We get to meet some of the fascinating characters of that period, such as Churchill, Hitler, Himmler, Schellenberg, and
    Canaris; there is nothing new about these people, but the author has his facts down, and he works in known and interesting
    aspects of these people, all the while spinning out his interesting tale of the people engaged in the highest level of
    spying, all for the highest possible stakes.
    The focus of his story is the ordinariness of all the participants, who all work harder, and achieve more, than they
    would have thought possible. War is hell, yes, but it can also
    be stimulating and bring out the best in people. Just as it
    can bring out the worst.
    And this author, in this story, has several such stories, and
    they are all interesting and worth reading. Plus, these people
    don't spend all their time plotting and spying; they drink

    cold white wine, dream about a better life, yearn for a peaceful
    time again, and they search for love.
    This book is first-class, and it should be read by anyone interested in intrigue and romance in the WWII era....more info

  • The Unlikely Ending. All that equisite buildup, to a fatally flawed finale. Bother.
    Fun, suspensful, till...(Spoiler alert) Would a German Sub captain who knows a thirty-foot boat is full of English MI-5 just fire a shot across its bows? Worse--a 195 foot English Navy Corvette, armed with a 100mm gun, a two-pound pom pom gun, two 20mm guns, and depth charges--when one of these sub killers sees a German sub on the surface, would it not poke a hole or two in it, preventing the escape of a couple German spies? Would it really only shoot machine guns at the spies on their diapidated fishing boat, while allowing their escape route to escape? Silva, get a grip. Put out a corrected edition. ...more info
  • The Unlikely Spy
    Not as suspenseful as Daniel Silva's other two books. The plot was not as good as his others, nor was the drama. Definitely not as well written as his other books....more info
  • A Classic Spy Novel.....
    The Unlikely Spy was a classic WWI spy novel. It was a fast-paced, enjoyable read from the very beginning -- a true page turner that was difficult to put down. The story was set in the UK prior to the invasion of Normandy on D-Day. It was a time that the Allies truly needed to keep their plans secret and the Nazis desperately wanted to know the details of the inevitable invasion. Hence a truly plausible story with a solid cast of characters -- some real and some fictional. The story provides the reader with action, excitement, intrigue, and frequent plot twists. Chances are that once you start his book, you will want to read it in big chunks....more info
  • The American Frederick Forsyth
    Having more narrative twists than a Cedar Point roller coaster (in Sandusky, Ohio), this wonderful espionage thriller in the vein of Frederick Forsyth's The Day of the Jackal, has firmly put me on the path of reading Daniel Silva.

    I haven't been disappointed yet.

    The ending of The Unlikely Spy is quite engaging, and the depiction of Prime Minister Churchill is quite unforgettable. Having him taking a tubby while sending an academic on to an important counter spy effort is really a wonderful scene.

    And the character development is really extraordinary. I never thought I could almost cheer on a German spy on English soil during WWII while simultaneously hoping she were undone. How'd Mr. Silva accomplish that?...more info