Monday, August 20, 2012

Shake Off

Shake Off
Mischa Hiller
Mulholland Books
Little, Brown and Company
Hatchette Book Group
New York
August 2012
ISBN: 978-0-316-20420-0
288 pages

"Everybody behind you could be following you, and it is your job to
shake them off."

How are spies recruited? Most people don't say that they want to
grow up to be a spy. What type of people become spies?

Growing up in Palestine, Michel Khoury has had an unfortunate life.
His parents were murdered by terrorists which placed him in a refugee
camp. With no family, Michel finds himself being recruited to be a
spy. With his keen ability to learn languages and having a Middle
Eastern complexion, he is quickly recruited and trained in Russia to be a spy.
Being able to fit into any group of people is obviously a trait
much valued for this profession.

Michel carries a passport which lists him as being from Lebanon. The
group who employs Michel has one goal which is the resolution of
peace for all in the Middle East. In order to achieve this, Michel
needs many identities, passports, and money.

While living in London, Michel notices Helen who lives across the hall in his
apartment building. The two of them share a bathroom where
Michel hides his various identities and passports with some money. He wonders
why Helen is tolerating her current lover who is an obviously
older, married man. Through a chance encounter, Michel and Helen
begin a relationship, but he can never tell her who he really is and what he

Michel has a new assignment from his handler, Abu Leila, in which he
is to find a house in London for some people to meet. However,
Michel quickly discovers that he is being followed. He constantly is
shaking off his pursuers who seem to always know where to find him. Is he being
set up? Who can he trust?

Shake Off has a different perspective as it shows that all who has lived in the
Middle East have suffered atrocities whether they are Jewish,
Muslim, or any other of the religious or territorial divisions.

This espionage novel is similiar in style to John Le Carre with the
central character being very much a loner and not being able to trust
anyone. There is the constant struggle between completing your task
while keeping yourself safe. This well-written, intense novel, is
engrossing as you follow Michel and sense his reactions while he is
balancing his safety with his paranoia.

Mischa Hiller resides in Cambridge, England now after growing up in
London, Beirut, and Dar El Salaam. He is a winner of the
Commonwealth Writer's Prize for the Best First Book Category for South Asia and

For a gripping tale full of espionage, read Shake Off.

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