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Reviews: 'The Fallen Angel' And 'A Foreign Country'


August is here and, for many, that means vacation and a last minute scramble for a good book to pass the quiet hours. Well, take heart. Our reviewer Alan Cheuse has reached deep into his pile of new books and found two spy thrillers, perfect, he says, for brisk summer reading.

ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: It's become almost obligatory for lovers of high level thrillers to read each new Daniel Silva novel as soon as it appears. With his by now trademark character, Gabriel Allon, the semi-retired Mossad operative who's also a world class art restorer, Silva just about guarantees a couple of days of terrific entertainment.

This time around, in "The Fallen Angel," Allon works deep inside the Vatican where, as it happens, he's been restoring a Caravaggio for the church's collection. A young woman on the museum staff falls to her death and Allon, called on by an old friend who serves as the Pope's assistant, takes on a crime investigation that leads from Rome to a Hamas plot to destroy the very underpinnings of the Israeli state. Sounds like wild gesticulating, but Silva, with his by now signature touch, makes it quite convincing.

The main character of British thriller writer Charles Cumming's latest novel called "A Foreign Country" - that's Thomas Kell. He's also semi-retired. Well, actually, dumped by British intelligence because of some mean business - not of his own doing - in Iraq.

On a London morning when Kell's suffering from a grand hangover, he receives a call to come out of the cold and take over the investigation of a disappearance that will have major consequences. The first female head of British intelligence has gone missing. No terrorists in this one, just a murderous bunch of operatives from French intelligence worried that the Brits will take up some of their space in the post-Arab Spring world.

Kell, the weary operative, muses at one point on a stakeout that spying is waiting. Spy novel reading has that aspect to it, too. I'm already waiting for the next Charles Cumming novel and the next Daniel Silva.


CORNISH: That's our own Alan Cheuse reviewing two new thrillers, Daniel Silva's "The Fallen Angel" and "A Foreign Country" by Charles Cumming. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Alan Cheuse died on July 31, 2015. He had been in a car accident in California earlier in the month. He was 75. Listen to NPR Special Correspondent Susan Stamburg's retrospective on his life and career.