Review

Shake Off

by Mischa Hiller

“…a secular, democratic state for Jews, Christians and Muslims. A country where everyone would have equal rights, regardless of their religion. One country, I thought. It was such a simple and appealing idea….Yet it seemed impossible to achieve --- I could see obstacles wherever I looked.”

Michel Khoury has strived for years to overcome those obstacles. Idealist turned spy, he has thrown his heart and soul into his work. It would be hard to find a better agent. He’s passionate and compassionate, yet violence is no stranger to him. As a boy, his entire family was murdered in front of him. That horrendous scene made him a prime candidate for enlistment in the cause. He wants to see peace in the Middle East more than almost anyone. And his mentor, Abu Leila, has promised him to make that their goal.

"More than a story of forbidden love, SHAKE OFF is a crossbreed of thriller and romance. Wonderfully subtle in its buildup of tension, it spends time getting to intimately know its characters. And they are uniquely drawn."

So Michel faithfully carries out his instructions, in the hope that one day, Israel and Palestine will not be at war with each other. His training has taught him well, and he soaked it up like a sponge. Now, something big is on the horizon. Abu wants Michel to secure a house for a very important and hush-hush meeting. Michel is his man.

Any good agent knows that his career is a solitary one. Falling in love doesn’t figure into a spy’s life. Michel has always followed that advice: Never say yes to a woman who makes the first move. Even if you initiate contact, the less conversation, the better. Above all, do not get emotionally involved. Michel’s numerous passports and cover stories serve him well when it comes to picking up women. He can be any one of a number of persons, speaking whatever language is required, and maintain his secret identity. Only now, he has found that the problem with never being in a relationship is never being close to anyone. After a lifetime by himself, Michel has grown lonely, although he wouldn’t admit it.

One day, he opens the door to his room and sees a long-legged, towel-wrapped woman, smelling of a fresh bath, and it starts him wondering about the possibilities of a different kind of life. That kind of thinking can be fatal in his line of work. He lets his guard down --- on more than one level. Helen, the English beauty, captivates Michel. They flirt with each other, finally allowing themselves the indulgence of a shared dinner. She has a boyfriend, sort of. Actually he’s married, but maybe that’s why Helen has taken up with him. She doesn’t want the complications of a relationship any more than Michel does.

Well, both of their lives are about to get very complicated. Not only have they allowed themselves to fall in love, Michel’s break with his usual precautions opens them up to grave danger. He should have been more careful, and now he will have to deal with the consequences. He and Helen take their already-planned trip to her mother’s house on the Scottish shore, having reinstated his instinctive paranoia and taking much more care to shake off any tails. But it’s too late. Michel is now running for his life. If he can get himself out of this, can he save Helen too?

More than a story of forbidden love, SHAKE OFF is a crossbreed of thriller and romance. Wonderfully subtle in its buildup of tension, it spends time getting to intimately know its characters. And they are uniquely drawn. Michel Khoury is so real, so flawed, and so in love. And Helen is an enigma --- strong and bold, yet fragile. Poignant and maddening at the same time, this is a journey into a new-age spy drama.

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on September 14, 2012

Shake Off
by Mischa Hiller

  • Publication Date: August 13, 2013
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Mulholland Books
  • ISBN-10: 0316204218
  • ISBN-13: 9780316204217