First-time Israeli writer stands tall with thriller masters Vince Flynn, Stieg Larsson and John Le Carre

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An upcoming Israeli writer looks set to challenge the established masters of the thriller genre with his debut novel featuring the top-secret Unit 8200 of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF).

The activities of this particular unit are so sensitive that if they tell you anything, they may have to kill you. Even so, this has not prevented Dov Alfon from basing A Long Night in Paris on Unit 8200. Alfon did his military service with this unit and later worked as the editor of the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper. A Long Night in Paris was originally published in the Hebrew language back in 2016 and spent almost eight months on the top of the list of bestselling books. The English translation was released at the beginning of this year and a German translation, titled Unit 8200 is now available.

The setting of this novel is obviously in the French capital of Paris as the title implies. Other authors like Vince Flynn and Jack Higgins have used France as the main setting for their novels in the past. The story alternates between Paris, where Alfon spend his childhood, and Tel Aviv, where the headquarters of the IDF is based. The main characters are Colonel Zeev Abadi, the newly-appointed head of Unit 8200’s Special Section, and his deputy, Lieutenant Oriana Talmor. Abadi is currently on leave in Paris visiting his elderly parents when he is called into an investigation involving an Israeli passenger from an El Al flight who vanished from the arrival lounge of Charles de Gaulle Airport. As it becomes clear that the missing Israeli is the victim of mistaken identity and the real target was another Israeli who served in Unit 8200 and was in possession of highly-classified information, the whole affair threatens to escalate into a diplomatic storm. As the seconds tick and the bodies start piling up, Abadi and his French counterparts must solve the mystery before it blows up in their faces with devastating consequences. The presence of a mysterious team of Chinese assassins does nothing to make their job easier. However, Abadi can count on Oriana and her team of intrepid investigators in Tel Aviv to get to the bottom of the matter from their end.

There are elements of Nordic noir in A Long Night in Paris as well as espionage activity typically seen in John Le Carre novels. Alfon jumps between crime and spy thriller genres with the fluid movements of a ballet dancer. The portrayal of Abadi appears to be drawn from Alfon’s personal experience in the IDF and his childhood growing up in Paris. He cleverly weaves in real-life controversies into the plot, giving it a strong sense of realism mostly associated with Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series. At times, it appears that we readers are given a virtual tour of Paris and its surroundings. A major subplot centres on the management of a potential scandal involving the Israeli Prime Minister which could dictate the outcome of the events playing out on the streets of Paris. It shows the close ties between the media and politics in general, as well as how the ones with the most to hide usually tend to me the most dangerous.

It would be exciting if the film rights for A Long Night in Paris were to be optioned as it would rank in the same league as the Mission: Impossible series of films starring Tom Cruise. However, it would appear somewhat like a slow-burn version.

If you are looking to kill time on a long flight, this book is the perfect companion. Even better if you like Stieg Larsson and Vince Flynn. Dov Alfon could easily be their love child given his writing style.