The actual arch-enemy

The Black Widow by Daniel Silva HarperCollins 528pp Available at Asia Books and leading bookshops 350 baht

For several years after the start of the Counter Crusades -- the Middle East's invasion of Europe -- it was unhealthy for the European media to say or write anything that was negative to the Holy Book. Its extremist adherents attacked the source and blood flowed. Fleeing the scene, no suicide bombers they, so-called Islamic State proudly boasted of the murders.

Fearful novelists pretended they didn't exist, incessantly fingering the KGB as the West's worst enemy. But as the atrocites of Isis, on more than one continent, became too numerous and outrageous to ignore, it became known as the perpetrators, the likelihood of reprisals notwithstanding.

To be sure, the KGB (SVR now) still gets brickbats, but the emphasis is shifting to Isis as the arch-villains. The fact is that little is known about it other than it originated in Syria during the ongoing attempt by an element of the population to topple the strongman head of state.

Extremists joined, than hijacked the revolution, foreign powers came to realise that the cure was worse than the illness and there was nothing for it but to support the incumbent. Growing in strength, despite the absence of a supreme leader, it has all but taken over Iraq. According to its agenda, other countries will follow.

In The Black Widow, Yank author Daniel Silva comes closest to date to inform the reader what the authorities have learned about Isis. For several years Gabriel Allon, his literary creation, has been an Israeli intelligence agent, an excellent art restorer is his cover.

He drops tidbits about the extremists in every chapter. Perhaps most interesting is that they recruit Western women and train them to bomb public places. With the assistance of his French colleague, an Isis bigwig is tracked down and killed. We are asked to believe that Israel has infiltrated Isis.

The author opines that none of the Western countries takes terrorism as seriously as Israel. As a result, the number of outrages will mount.

The FBI and CIA, MI5 and MI6 play peripheral roles in Silva's stories. This reviewer knows of no other popular scriveners who focus as strongly on Israel. Aware that they are the prime target in a Middle East conflagration, they are doing all they can to prepare for it.

But will it be enough?


The Sniper And The Wolf by Scott McEwen Pocket Books 431pp Available at Asia Books and leading bookshops 350 baht

A good series

Terrorists have been around for some time from the infamous plot to blow up Parliament in the 17th century to bomb-throwing anarchists in the 19th century to suicide bombers in the 20th century to al-Qaeda and Isis in the 21st century. These are the best known. A list can be made of the others.

The Chechens in Russia ought not be overlooked. Mass kidnappings, bombs in subways and apartment houses are some of their handiwork. Spreading their wings, the US is their ultimate threat. National antiterrorist departments have been created to stop them.

Not to mention the FBI and CIA, MI5 and MI 6 already in existence, the police and special forces. Yet, they have a tough fight on their hands and don't always win. Both have the latest state-of-the-art equipment and the experts able to use them. Didn't make any bets when experts are outed against each other.

Yank author Scott McEwen's literary creation is one such expert. Gil Shannon is a US Navy Seal plus a master sniper. The UK's SAS can't do better than that. His work is so dangerous his wife left him until he gives it up. His current mission is to take on Russian terrorist Dokka Unarov.

Turning rogue, leaving the military Dokka aligned himself with fellow Chechens. The Russian Spetsnaz are also after him. He goes to Paris, killing Americans and Russians. Shannon and Russian Major Dragonov, a curious combination, join forces to track Dokka down. There are near misses as McEwen keeps piling on the excitement.

In such stories there's invariably a CIA traitor and dealing with him takes several chapters. Venues change: Cuba, Sicily, Turkey, Paris. The highlight of the story is Shannon's invitation to the Kremlin, where he and President Putin have a heart-to-heart lunch talk.

The penultimate chapter climax has hero and villain (nicknamed "The Wolf") displaying their shooting skills.

John le Carré made his reputation battling the KGB. This reviewer would like to see him fast forward to the Chechens and suchlike terrorists. Scott McEwen and co-author Thomas Koloniar are more daring in making actual famous people characters.

The Sniper And The Wolf ought to be adapted to the screen as was American Sniper. Gil Shannon has as much going for him as Jason Bourne.

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