Cold War gets even colder

Nikhil Bhave
Saturday, 9 February 2019

THE OTHER WOMAN
Author: Daniel Silva
Publisher: HarperCollins 
Pages: 476
Price: Rs 235

Officially, the Cold War got over with the fall of the USSR. However, the Russian bear’s threat is far from over. Recent cases like Alexander Litvinenko, Sergei Skripal and the concerns surrounding the current POTUS (abbreviation for President of the United States), from his elections to his adulation for the current Russian President, just outline the potential threat the FSB or Former Soviet Bloc still poses. 

Spy author Daniel Silva’s latest The Other Woman focuses on this aspect, with some historic connections. Silva fans are very well aware of his Israeli superspy Gabriel Allon. As the book opens, he is involved in helping an FSB officer defect. The officer knows a secret so terrifying that he does not keep it in a document format. Needless to tell, that the mission goes awry, Allon escapes with his life and is soon on a trail reaching back to an incident which spawned a critically-acclaimed John Le Carre’s (a former spy himself) book — Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. The book deals with five Russian moles working deep with British Intelligence. 

The five include Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, John Cairncross, Anthony Blunt and Donald MacLean. Of these five, Philby was the most important catch for the then KGB, or if we want to go into more detail, its Foreign Intelligence branch named SVR. His importance to Russian intelligence can be gauged by the fact that they named a square near the current intelligence HQ after him. He also plays a critical role in setting into motion a plot which will see a mole planted by the then KGB get into a position of ultimate power.

Of course, this being a spy novel, there is the usual mix of double agents, defections, paranoia and some very catchy plot twists. But by making a very important spy a central piece of the jigsaw, coupled with the events mentioned in the beginning, does help in setting up a very Cold War 2.0 — like scenario, which is of prime importance, since this book is more about intrigue and skulduggery than all-out James Bond-style action.

Of course, the world shown in the book is far different, and worse than that of the Cold War masters Graham Greene and Le Carre. Instead of Communists vs others, it is now far-right nationalism vs others, and Russia seems to hold a lot of attraction for the above-mentioned. Back home, we have also seen people worshipping the current POTUS. This is a riveting read, but you will need some patience to settle in. And the ending indicates that a sequel is likely in the making.

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