Excerpt from The English Assassin by Daniel Silva, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The English Assassin

By Daniel Silva

The English Assassin
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  • Hardcover: Mar 2002,
    400 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2003,
    416 pages.

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Print Excerpt

Switzerland
1975

Marguerite Rolfe was digging in her garden because of the secrets she'd found hidden in her husband's study. It was late to be working in the garden, well past midnight by now. The spring thaw had left the earth soft and moist, and her spade split the soil with little effort, allowing her to progress with minimal noise. For this she was grateful. Her husband and daughter were asleep in the villa, and she didn't want to wake them.

Why couldn't it have been something simple, like love letters from another woman? There would have been a good row, Marguerite would have confessed her own affair. Lovers would have been relinquished, and soon their home would return to normal. But she hadn't found love letters--she'd found something much worse.

For a moment she blamed herself. If she hadn't been searching his study, she never would have found the photographs. She could have spent the rest of her life in blissful oblivion, believing her husband was the man he appeared to be. But now she knew. Her husband was a monster, his life a lie--a complete and meticulously maintained lie. Therefore she too was a lie.

Marguerite Rolfe concentrated on her work, making slow and steady progress. After an hour it was done. A good hole, she decided: about six feet in length and two feet across. Six inches below the surface she had encountered a dense layer of clay. As a result it was a bit shallower than she would have preferred. It didn't matter. She knew it wasn't permanent.

She picked up the gun. It was her husband's favorite weapon, a beautiful shotgun, hand-crafted for him by a master gunsmith in Milan. He would never be able to use it again. This pleased her. She thought of Anna. Please don't wake up, Anna. Sleep, my love.

Then she stepped into the ditch, lay down on her back, placed the end of the barrel in her mouth, pulled the trigger.




The girl was awakened by music. She did not recognize the piece and wondered how it had found its way into her head. It lingered a moment, a descending series of notes, a serene diminishment. She reached out, eyes still closed, and searched the folds of the bedding until her palm found the body which lay a few inches away. Her fingers slipped over the narrow waist, up the slender, elegant neck, toward the graceful curved features of the scroll. Last night they had quarreled. Now it was time to set aside their differences and make peace.

She eased from the bed, pulled on a dressing gown. Five hours of practice stretched before her. Thirteen years old, a sun-drenched June morning, and this was how she would spend her day--and every other day that summer.

Stretching the muscles of her neck, she gazed out the window at the flowering garden. It was a melee of spring color. Beyond the garden rose the steep slope of the valley wall. High above it all loomed the snow-capped mountain peaks, glittering in the bright summer sun. She pressed her violin to her neck and prepared to play the first Ètude.

Then she noticed something in the garden: a mound of dirt, a long shallow hole. From her vantage point in the window she could see a swath of white fabric stretched across the bottom and pale hands wrapped around the barrel of a gun.

"Mama!" she screamed, and the violin crashed to the floor.




She threw open the door to her father's study without knocking. She had expected to find him at his desk, hunched over his ledgers, but instead he was perched on the edge of a high-backed wing chair, next to the fireplace. A tiny, elfin figure, he wore his habitual blue blazer and striped tie. He was not alone. The second man wore sunglasses in spite of the masculine gloom of the study.

"What on earth do you think you're doing?" snapped her father. "How many times have I asked you to respect my closed door? Can't you see I'm in the middle of an important discussion?"

Reprinted from The English Assassin by Daniel Silva by permission of The Putnam Publishing Group, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © March 2002, Daniel Silva. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

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