A Spy in Exile is Ya’ra Stein. About a year ago Ya’ra, while working for Mossad was involved in an operation which flushed out one of Israel’s most dangerous traitors. This traitor was quickly identified, and she was ordered to stand down. The traitor, Alon Regev, an aide to Israel’s then Prime Minister, someone with access to state secrets at the highest level got wind of Ya’ra and her team on his tail and decided to run, attempting a rendezvous with Russian Intelligence. Ya’ra being a field operative decided quickly and decisively that she must put an end to him before they lose that opportunity for good. And Mr. Regev had an “accident.” While praised by many for making the right decision, Mossad ultimately cast her out, calling her “aggressive, undisciplined, unpredictable, and too prone to violence.”
As I mentioned, many in the intelligence community felt Ya’ra made the right decision on that operation and Israel’s new Prime Minister is one of them. Telling Ya’ra had “that been his aide, he would have killed him himself“. He Approaches Ya’ra and recruits her to be his “black horse.” Explaining to her that he believes the country needs their white horses as well, the ones that use reason, and the appropriate measures of law and order. But he wants her to be wild, aggressive, and subversive. To create a small unit, he believes has eroded Israel in recent years. A type of unit that can operate in absolute secrecy, completely detached from Israel that can act swiftly, aggressively, free of restraints those “white horse” warriors are bind to. And ultimately, a type of unit he and the state of Israel can deny if ever necessary.
Her marching orders received and agreeing to do what is necessary, Ya’ra sets out to recruit a new team. She starts with Aslan, someone she refers to as a “brother in arms.” A capable operative she has worked with in the past. Aslan is also an extreme sports enthusiast, devoting much of his time to mountain climbing, rafting, skydiving to name a few. She then carefully crafts an ad, posting on two internet message boards and one on a social media network. From there, the interview and selection process happen “off screen” as they say in movies and a small group materializes. When reading, I often picture the scene unfolding as if it was a movie. With this one, what came to mind was Ocean’s Eleven, the scene when all the recruits showed up and they were briefed by Danny, George Clooney’s character on what they were getting themselves into with the heist. These recruits however were pretty much all normal people. With the exception of one, none had a military background or any intelligence service of any type on their resume. To call them Green would be an understatement.
With the team assembled, Ya’ra and Aslan set a training schedule in motion to prepare the recruits for their new role. However, someone in Ya’ras’ past comes asking for her help in what he believes is a personal issue. A girlfriend who just up and left him, no explanation and no warning. Her friend, Matthias was distraught but as the head of the Hamburg Station of the German Intelligence Service, he wanted his friend Ya’ra to ensure nothing sinister was happening. She ultimately decides her new recruits would benefit from some “on the job training” and she agrees to help. Investigating and gathering intel, the new unit quickly uncovers a plot to kill some of Germany’s most renowned bankers. After that, they set out on their actual mission, to eliminate targets they receive from the Prime Minister. On this mission, the small team decides to split in two and conduct two simultaneous hits. While ultimately successful, the teams do encounter issues, majority of the human error type which leaves many doubts as to their future and willingness to participate in this unit. As I mentioned, these people were normal, with feelings and emotions, not past operators or killers. Throughout the book, we get to know each member and their reason for being there. But once the actual killing starts, and human error comes into play, in the form of ‘collateral damage’ some within the team question their drive to continue with the team.
While A Spy in Exile is very much different from other spy novels, it does raise the question; how things are really done? Considering that Jonathan de Shalit is a pseudonym for the author, due to the fact that he’s a former high-ranking member of Mossad, and in some circles, I’ve heard rumors he may still be an active member of Mossad. Which again raises the question in my head, how are things really done in the spy business? Is Jonathan de Shalit just another creative author or is he writing from real world experience? While a trained operative, like Jack Reacher or Jason Bourne for example are an easy sell, do real spy agencies recruit normal people in an effort to travel abroad easily then conduct an operation and disappear just as quickly. It’s hard to imagine, but who am I do argue with a real-world spy. I highly recommend A Spy in Exile and not only because I’m afraid of the author and what his capabilities are, but in all seriousness, it is a fantastic read. I look forward to future spy novels from Jonathan with this new and now highly trained secret kill unit.
Author: Jonathan de Shalit (pseudonym)
Pages: 384 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Atria / Emily Bestler Books
Release Date: February 5, 2019
Lima Charlie Rating: A BLAST RADIUS OF: AN ARTILLERY SHELL (7/10) – A 155 mm High Explosive Projectile fired from a Medium Towed Howitzer fires a High Explosive round up to 30 klicks. With a BLAST RADIUS of 50 meters and a casualty radius of 100 meters. Artillery men are known as “King of Battle.”
About the Author
Jonathan de Shalit is the pseudonym of a former high-ranking member of the Israeli Intelligence Community. He is the author of Traitor. His books must pass a rigid vetting process, including the approval of a special Governmental Ministers’ Committee. De Shalit has translated into Hebrew the American novel A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter and Defectors by Joseph Kanon, as well as John le Carre’s autobiography, The Pigeon Tunnel.