IT is one of those titles that says it all. Well, almost.
The cover picture of menacing clouds hanging low over the French capital leaves little room for doubt about the content within.
Everything is explained in five short words: A Long Night in Paris. And not one of gaiety and revelry such as those that have become synonymous with the city’s now largely false image as ‘Gay Paree’.
Longer and darker by far.
The cover illustration and title combine to imply good things are not about to happen.
Questions are immediately implied for readers to ask and discover.
Who, why and how? The hook is baited and the lure is set. So read on …
The opening sentence ensures we are immediately off and running: Nine people witnessed the abduction of Yaniv Meidan from Charles de Gaulle airport, not including the hundreds of thousands who watch the security camera footage once it had been posted online.
Meidan is a bit of lad. He makes a beeline for the line of airport meeters and greeters to chat up an alluring blonde, prominent in a red hotel uniform.
In the next six minutes Meidan willingly lets the blonde lure him into an underground car park. Only later, when CCTV footage is reviewed, do we learn something sudden and nasty has happened. Two Chinese assailants are seen stuffing his limp body into a rubbish shute.
The woman strips naked to dispose of her blood-stained dress and blonde wig. She dons Meidan’s raincoat to cloak her nakedness. Everyone departs the scene.
The illegally installed security cameras have nothing more to show to those who later view the footage. But one thing is agreed, a major terror plot is fast taking shape in Paris. Its shattering global impact is only hours away.
However, security forces in France and Israel are as baffled as readers will be when confronted by the subsequent long trail of twists, turns and sudden unexpected reveals.
The CCTV watchers have been rapidly convened into a cabal representing several deep cover departments within the Israeli secret service. Rivalries between them are intense. Disruptive, too, as each has a different view of how their overall responsibilities and objectives should be achieved.
Breathless action follows. Much of it is unanticipated despite all the inside information their operatives have gathered. Nor are they helped as much as they would wish by all the complex state-of-the-art gadgetry at their disposal and internal sabotage.
Author Dov Alfon, a French-born Israeli immigrant, although better known within Israel as a highly regarded and multi-awarded journalist, did once serve as a Mossad intelligence officer. Hence the amount of insider knowledge that adds so much to the verisimilitude of this complex and nerve-shredding plot.
Alfon’s former employer, Unit 8200, is the most secretive of Mossad’s numerous subdivisions. The promotion of Lieutenant Oriana Talma as its leader takes everyone by surprise. Her sudden appearance at the top table leaves her colleagues wrong footed. It soon has most of them wallowing in her wake as she uses her hitherto unknown but exceptional talents to defuse the night-long threat that faces them.
Russian honey traps, Chinese gangsters, French detectives and her own backstabbing agents are all grist to her mill as she and a handful of trusted colleagues unravel the deadly tangle of allegiances that confronts them.
It is all brilliantly choreographed. The action switches continuously between France and Israel in almost breathless short chapters.
The focus keeps shifting, shining its brief tantalising light into the darkest corners of this frightening night. Like a hand-held camera moving perilously close to the midst of the action.
The body count goes way beyond the initial bloody attack on Meidan. Snipers and knife-men abound. And it all comes across as terribly real, so close to what might be.
Dialogue is sharp and brittle. Each character is brought superbly to life on the page. Their frustrations, loyalties, doubts, strengths and weaknesses are all clearly delineated.
It is crime fiction at its best; an espionage novel to rival LeCarre; a most compelling and gripping read.
It topped Israel’s bestseller list for twenty-four weeks when published in Hebrew in 2016 and was first available in English when published in the UK by MacLehose in 2019.