27 October 2016

Review #544: The English Teacher by Yiftach Reicher Atir



My rating: 4 of 5 stars


“He was a secret agent, and still alive thanks to his exact attention to the detail of his profession.”

----Ian Fleming



Yiftach Reicher Atir, the former head of the Israel army’s special ops directorate, pens a mind boggling spy thriller, The English Teacher inspired from his own life as a commando handling many operatives serving for their motherland with a new identity in an enemy country. The author was woven a gripping tale about a retired female undercover Mossad agent, who goes missing after her father's death and her experienced male handler is called down to the head quarters to divulge details about her untold past and her assignments so that they can find a clue to where she is heading to. But that requires a lot of hidden emotions and a lot of untold stories to unravel in front of so many others.


Synopsis:

For readers of John Le Carré and viewers of Homeland, a slow-burning psychological spy-thriller by a former brigadier general of intelligence in the Israeli army

After attending her father’s funeral, former Mossad agent Rachel Goldschmitt empties her bank account and disappears. But when she makes a cryptic phone call to her former handler, Ehud, the Mossad sends him to track her down. Finding no leads, he must retrace her career as a spy to figure out why she abandoned Mossad before she can do any damage to Israel. But he soon discovers that after living under cover for so long, an agent’s assumed identity and her real one can blur, catching loyalty, love, and truth between them. In the midst of a high-risk, high-stakes investigation, Ehud begins to question whether he ever knew his agent at all.

In The English Teacher, Yiftach R. Atir drew on his own experience in intelligence to weave a psychologically nuanced thriller that explores the pressures of living under an assumed identity for months at a time.



Rachel disappears into thin air after her father's funeral as she found out about the letters sent years ago under her name by her senior case officer, Ehud. Filled with regret and remorse towards the life she led as a Mossad operative for so many years, she leaves the country without leaving any trace of her. Ehud has been alerted about Rachel's disappearance by his commander Joe, to whom Ehud confesses his undying love for Rachel for so many years and the story behind Rachel's past and her assignments as an English teacher in an enemy country. But divulging those untold facts about Rachel's life might put both Ehud and Rachel's lives in danger, although there's no other way to find out about Rachel's whereabouts and years of working with the Mossad, it has put her into liability about so many secrets about the Arab capital's military operations.

Being formerly experienced in the field, the author has diligently penned this story with enough insights and vivid scenes to make the readers feel like the story is unfolding right before their presence. Although it is a purely fictional story which has been highly censored by the Israeli intelligence agencies yet the story delves enough deeper to let the readers see a spy's double life and experience their struggling crisis with their dual existence which often merges into one another, resulting into chaos both in real and spy lives. The emotions attached to a spy's mindset and heart are evocatively captured and portrayed by the author into the story thereby making it a compelling as well as poignant read for one and all.

The author's writing style is articulate yet it lacked depth at many places, hence when the time came to comprehend with the core of the story, I failed to do so. Even the dual narratives of both Ehud and Rachel seems to get meddled with one another's back stories, hence the tone of the story line isn't that polished and while reading, I felt bit baffled with the dialogues of the two characters who felt like having equal voices. The pacing of the book is slow as the story is unraveled through many layers, that ultimately up the intrigue quotient of the book.

The characters in the book are well developed, and since the common readers are not aware of a spy's lifestyle, so it will feel like a fresh insight into the world of a government operative complete with believable facts. The main character, Rachel, felt like a sketchy character as it was hard to recognize her through her monologues, overall, she is very brave yet emotional young lady who is full of promises and will not bend to take risks, but in the end her emotions failed her. The other character, Ehud, is extremely well sketched out and so the rest of the supporting cast of characters, while Ehud being the love-sick, forced-to-be-a-scheming mind planer who took care of Rachel's assignments and trained her in this field, and his sad life will strike the readers thoroughly.

The backdrop of Israel is not that well arrested into the story line, yet somehow, the author managed to capture the Israeli flair through his evocative prose and that will let the readers feel the depth and heart of a forbidden land so closely.

In a nutshell, the story is brilliantly portrayed through a retired and runaway operative's back story and lets the readers realize about the painful path that these operative take while sacrificing the simple things of a normal human lifestyle, in order to serve one's own country blindly.

Verdict: A page turning spy thriller that is not to be missed.

Courtesy: Thanks to the author, Yiftach Reicher Atir's publicist for giving me an opportunity to read and review his novel.
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Author Info:
Yiftach Reicher Atir was born in 1949 on Kibbutz Shoval, in the south of Israel. As a young commando officer, he participated in Operation Entebbe and other military and intelligence operations before retirement with the rank of Brigadier General (Intelligence). The English Teacher is his third novel.
Visit him here



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