First, I think that I should tell you why you might 𝙣o𝙩 want to purchase "The Skorpion Directive," as this novel will not suit everyone. Don't buy this audiobook if you have not yet listened its Micah Dalton series predecessors -- starting with "The Echelon Vendetta" (2007) -- because you will miss out on the continuity and some of the allusions. Secondly, don't buy this audiobook if you object to right-wing proselytizing. Yes, David Stone has a right-of-center political stance ... but, then, so do Tom Clancy, Patrick Robinson, Stephen Hunter, and most of the other Military Thriller writers. I consider myself to have pretty liberal sensibilities -- and I am sticking to them! -- but I would regret missing out on these writers who, despite their right-wing stances, offer us some pretty exciting stories. Stone, in particular, is not only a good story-teller, but also a surprisingly good writer. Some of his descriptions qualify as poetry ... but he does proselytize:
"Here, at the end of my life, I've come to realize that the only reliable law is the law of unintended consequences. This new administration [referring to the Obama administration], for the most part, is neither stupid nor blindly partisan ... although some of the younger staffers at the White House seem to think it clever to act like junkyard dogs, as if political combat were the same as actual combat. But, then, when the young Turks in any new government aren't prating to their elders, they're preening in their shaving mirrors. They all share the same delusions of adequacy. The previous administration persuaded itself that it had the power to impose a kind of Junior-League Republicanism on murderous tribal theocracies. The new one imagines that it can impose the asinine Marcusian sophistries of Norm Chompsky and the Harvard faculty of humanities on the people of America; as if Socialism had not already been tried many times before, only to collapse in ruins -- frequently very bloody ruins. And God only knows what sort of grotesque ideological calliope the next army of enthusiasts will ride in on, horns blatting and banners ablaze. My consolation is that I'll probably not be around when the wheels fall off again."
In his Micah Dalton series, Stone consistently pursues an agenda: The C.I.A. should be allowed to do its job, unencumbered with liberal fetters. He makes a pretty good case for this agenda, showing through Micah Dalton's tribulations how the C.I.A. agents are hampered by government restrictions. In his Micah Dalton series, Stone has Dalton endure some hair-raising, terrifyingly realistic adventures. Don't buy 𝙖𝙣𝙮 of Stone's Micah Dalton audiobooks if graphic descriptions of violence make you queazy.
The narrator of "The Skorpion Directive," Jason Culp, has a slightly odd voice, but very good acting skills. He has many voices and accents at his command to distinguish all the characters from one another. I would recommend "The Skorpion Directive" to anyone who enjoys the Military Thriller genre, with the above-mentioned caveats.
Meet Gabriel Allon, reluctant assassin. "The Kill Artist," published in 2000, introduces us to Daniel Silva's popular Gabriel Allon series. Yes, the series gets better as it progresses: "The Kill Artist" is not its best entry. In fact, I think that each entry gets better than the last one, reflecting the growing skill of the author. None-the-less, I still recommend that anyone wishing to listen to the subsequent Gabriel Allon novels should start here, with "The Kill Artist," and then listen to the novels in sequence. The Gabriel Allon character has a lot of complexity, as do the plots of all his adventures. Although Daniel Silva does a good job summarizing all that you need to know for each successive episode, you will still miss out on the richness of this series if you pick it up in the middle. (In fact, I did just that, not knowing any better at the time. Now, I am enjoying going back and listening to the series in the proper order ... and getting so much more out of it than I did the first time 'round.)
Author Daniel Silva is a pretty complex character, himself. Raised in a devoutly Catholic family, he converted to Judaism in adulthood, as a result of his marriage. Now he writes compelling novels about an Israeli Mossad assassin (although, curiously, the Mossad is never mentioned in any of his Gabriel Allon novels -- it is just called "the Office"), in which we learn more than we may have ever wanted to know about the Holocaust, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, international politics, and recent world history. Whether or not these novels suit one's taste in fiction, one cannot deny the deep, penetrating intelligence and profound, cynical knowledge of world events and human nature that emanates from all of Daniel Silva's novels. As some previous reviewers have noted, "The Kill Artist" has some pretty dark aspects to it -- don't buy it for light escape fiction -- but it does offer some intriguing, disturbing, and surprisingly fair-minded insights into current headlines and the human psychology behind them.
George Guidall, as always, does an excellent job narrating "The Kill Artist." He has a lovely, warm, mature voice, that he can adapt into many different characters, including female characters. Although he draws some of his accents from his "generic" bag, he uses a pretty credible French accent for this audiobook.
"The Mark of the Assassin," published back in 1998, spookily augured a real event that occurred three years 𝙡𝙖𝙩𝙚𝙧: on 09/11/01. Here, Daniel Silva -- in only his second novel -- is already hitting his stride, showing his potential for excellent writing, plotting, and insight. Fans of his popular Gabriel Allon series will see in "The Mark of the Assassin" the emergence of the future Gabriel Allon character -- in the person of Jean-Paul Delaroche, international assassin and accomplished artist -- as well as several other characters that will appear in the Gabriel Allon series: most notably Ari Shamron (director of Israel's Mosad), Adrian Carter (director of the C.I.A.'s Counter-Terrorism Task Force), and Graham Seymour (England's MI6 spymaster). Fans of the 9/11 conspiracy theory will appreciate Silva's Society for International Development and Cooperation -- consisting of "rogue intelligence officers, politicians, arms merchants, mercenaries, drug lords, international crime organizations, and powerful business moguls" -- who secretly engineer a deadly terrorist attack on American soil to enrich their own agendas. Sound familiar? I don't doubt that such an organization may, in fact, exist on this planet, secretly manipulating events that profoundly affect all of us little people to its own ends. (Bilderberg Group, anyone?)
I have just finished listening to Silva's entire oeuvre in chronological order -- from "The Unlikely Spy" to "The English Girl" -- with great enjoyment, appreciating his evolution as an author along the way. In particular, I admire his growing encyclopedic knowledge of international affairs and behind-the-scenes political machinations. Also -- of interest to female listeners -- I have witnessed a subtle, but noticeable, evolution in Silva's feminist awareness. Whereas in Silva's early works -- including "The Mark of the Assassin" -- you will see the female characters portrayed as unlikeable, irritable, shrill, dependent, possessive harridans, in later novels the female characters begin developing into more admirable women. I also appreciate the fact that, although Silva necessarily includes the obligatory sex scenes in his novels, he makes them mercifully brief and un-explicit, more so with each novel.
Regarding the narrator, Christopher Lane, I subtracted a star from his rating, only because of an odd, overly nonchalant inflection that he adopted for the "bad guys" in this audiobook. Otherwise, I liked his reading of "The Mark of the Assassin." He has a nice voice, and distinguishes the characters from one another pretty well.
In summary, I highly recommend "The Mark of the Assassin" to most thriller lovers; although I admit that it may not suit everybody's tastes. In general, if you like your thrillers with intelligent, complex plots, with a bit of gratuitous cynicism, then I think that you will enjoy all of Daniel Silva's novels. By the way: "The Marching Season" -- the novel which immediately follows "The Mark of the Assassin" -- picks up where its predecessor left off, effectively continuing the story. So, if you end up enjoying "The Mark of the Assassin," I would suggest purchasing "The Marching Season" next, in order to hear the rest of the story.