Shake Off
Mischa Hiller
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Shake Off

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  239 ratings  ·  45 reviews
An internationally acclaimed thriller of love, espionage and subterfuge, in which Middle East meets West with dangerous consequences.

Years of training have transformed Michel Khoury into a skilled intelligence operative. A refugee whose family was murdered by extremists, he has one mission: the peaceful resolution of the Middle East conflict that upended his life.

An alluri...more
Published August 14th 2012 by Mulholland Books (first published February 1st 2011)
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Jim Coughenour
I tend to edge away from anything about the Arab/Israeli conflict, which is dispiriting, tragic and stupid no matter where your sympathies lie. When I realized that Michel, the main character of Shake Off, was an undercover agent for the PLO, a survivor of the Sabra massacre, I almost tossed it aside. Watlz with Bashir was stellar but sufficient.

My reservations evaporated immediately. The narrator's voice – young, deeply intelligent, disillusioned (not quite enough, as it turns out) – won me ove...more
The main character of Mischa Hiller’s novel Shake Off is Michel, a survivor of the Sabra Massacre in Lebanon in 1982. A child at the time, he is taken under the wing of Abu Leila and gradually trained in languages and spy tradecraft with the idea that eventually he would be able to aid a resurgence of Palestinian power. He has a lonely, secret life apart from the intimacy of others.

What I found most interesting about this novel was the Palestinian viewpoint. Until about fifteen years ago when I...more
Victoria Strauss
Written in a spare, understated style that makes every word count, this book about a lonely PLO undercover operative haunted by his traumatic past packs a powerful emotional punch. Highly recommended.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mal Warwick
Mossad, the PLO, and a young Palestinian refugee in a spy story set in London and Berlin

Ever wonder how publishers decide how to market books? For example, how to decide whether to feature a book as a “thriller” instead of, say, a “deeply moving novel of love and loss”? Mischa Hiller’s novel, Shake Off, raised questions like that in my mind.

Michel Khoury, a bright young man with a rare gift for languages, is recruited from a foster home at the age of 15 to be educated and trained in the USSR by...more
An international thriller with a different perspective. Michel Khoury is an intelligence operative looking for peace in the Middle East but he is not your typical agent. He was not brought up in the West. His family was killed with a lot of other Christian and Arab Palestinians in Lebanon and his trainers were Russian. His handler, Abu Leila, also comes from a similar background as Michel. This story is not ,however, a story of East vs West but a story of secretive agents working for some sort o...more
Mike Bull
If Shake Off is the new spy novel, I want more! Set in the 1980s, this thrilling emotional roller coaster of a book is set mostly in the U.K. but strays elsewhere to Europe and the middle east. A Lebanese Palestinian who has lost his parents to murder in a Lebanese refuge camp has had his education in Cypress, Germany and the Soviet Union paid for by an acquaintance of those who gave him a home at fifteen years of age. This acquaintance quickly becomes his "handler" and he becomes an agent. Unfa...more
I read this book in one day.

Is it possible to be a soldier for a cause inextricably linked to who you are without giving up the chance to love and live a normal life?

Stirred up some similar feelings as when I read "Water, Carry Me" by Thomas Moran, which is also an excellent book.
Another one of those books I read on a "Best of" list. Not your typical background (Middle East) for a mystery type book (not sure it's exactly a spy thriller). This could turn off some people who won't accept any differing views on their own opinion of what has, is and should be happening in the Middle East (namely Israel and Palestine). But I found it refreshing then another book set in Boston or Miami. The characters are pretty well fleshed out and I found it easy to read and didn't want to p...more
Brian Williams
This is a really entertaining spy story, set in the late 1980's. It's told written from the perspective of Michel, a Palestinian who is orphaned in the 1982 attacks on the refugee camps in Beirut. Michel is taken in by a Lebanese family and then a mysterious "uncle" who proceeds to train him to be a spy. He thinks he is working for the PLO but his world changes when his "uncle" is gunned down in Berlin. After that happens, Michel is chased throughout Europe by Mossad agents and eventually he end...more
Lex Burnell
Compelling espionage thriller which was convincing and informative. Mischa Hiller has managed to pull off a novel with a Palestinian protagonist (whose life is turned upside-down when his family is brutally murdered in a refugee camp massacre at Sabra in Lebanon) but has avoided a condemnatory tone throughout the book. The lines between enemy and ally become blurred. Mischa Hiller is a new writer whose work deserves to be widely read, particularly by anyone wishing to gain a better understanding...more
Lindsay Harrison
I loved this book. I didn't think I was going to as I started off. It seemed a very different type of novel than what I usually read but the twists and frenetic pace of the story kept me reading. The author does a brilliant job of immersing the reader in the world of a spy, detailing with trained specificity how to shake off your enemy in public spaces. I hate to write anything that gives away the terrific plot or the beautifully crafted story, but I did love this book. I will look for other boo...more
I received this book for free through First Reads. I'm not sure exactly what I expected, but this book was not what I was expected. I rated it as ok only because it turned out that it was not exactly the type of book I typically read. There was quite a bit of history that I could not get a grasp on and that had a lot to do with the story. I also felt that it took a lot of buildup for a relatively short climax. The story was good and I do feel that for those that like historical fiction and spies...more
I read 65 pages (about 1/4 of the book) and then gave up because there was no real plot. I guess being a real spy is about as exciting as watching paint dry (or checking mailboxes). I could see a plot coming, but it was taking just too long. Also, while the main charcter was interesting and reasonably well developed, I did not get attached or really care about him or the story. So even if he ditched his "mission" to run off with the girl, I'd just say "ahh, so what."
Patsy Collins
Although the book is about undercover agents and terrorists, a lot of it deals with the mc's personal relationships - both with women and his handler. Personally, I like that.

I don't know what the life of an undercover PLO operative is really like, but the story seemed perfectly believable to me.

I did find the regularly repeated 'as Jack would say' to explain every cliche a bit tiresome, but otherwise found this an easy and enjoyable read.
First-person narration of a PLO operative working in London. Through flashbacks, we learn his history, his isolation, his trade craft.

The narrative voice is effective to give us sympathy for the protagonist and to keep us in the dark. There are deep questions we'd like answered, but for every answer there are more questions.

Other reviewers have called this a fast-paced story, but I found it otherwise, at least until the last few chapters.
Ai-Ling Louie
The world of Palestinian and Israeli spies unfolds as we follow Michel around England, Germany, Lebanon, and Russia. We learn why he took up this dangerous life, and what drives his burning desire to serve his contact, Abu Leila. But despite all warnings, Michel finds himself drawn to a woman he should shake off. Then, the worst case scenario happens. This well-written thriller is surprising as well as even-handed.

Good reads win: I thought this was a very different type of book then I usually read. It was very well written and the cover was pretty cool. I thought it was interesting how we never really know what the real named is of the protagonist. Even though this is an undercover and terrorist s type of book it deals alot with the protagonist personal relationship and handler. Good read and will pass along.
I picked this up after reading Malcolm Gladwell's glowing recommendation in the New Yorker. I don't want to say much here since I wouldn't want to give away any spoilers. I thought it was well written and a worthwhile read. Here's the book description I found on Amazon: An internationally acclaimed thriller of love, espionage and subterfuge, in which Middle East meets West with dangerous consequences.
I very much enjoyed this literary political thriller from Mischa Hiller, it was also the first novel I read on Kindle (at beginning of 2012), and I learned that ebooks can be as gripping as paper books. At the time, I had some slight quibbles re. Helen, the main female character, but I can't remember now what they were, so they were obviously not significant. Five stars from me.
This is an excellent political thriller, which offers an intriguing plot with a nicely unexpected turn of events towards the end, plausible, two well-drawn and likeable main characters, and a political context which captures some of the complexities that (I imagine) mark the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It made me want to search out his earlier book, Sabra Zoo.
Competent, underwhelming, predictable.
An espionage thriller with the Palestinian conflict as background. Very Le Carre in mould. Except that Hiller's plot tends to tackiness, and the climax is a terrible let-down. But is an interesting read, if only for the rarity of reading any form of British fiction from a Palestinian POV.
Such a good read, a thriller for those who don't normally read spy novels. Hiller takes critical moments in recent history (Europe 1989, Arab/Israeli conflict, Sabra Beirut camp massacres) and throws heartbreakingly human characters into the mix. Could not put this one down.
Patrick Schultheis

A fine follow up to Sabra Zoo. The main character is a survivor of the Sabra massacre who is recruited to help the Palestinian fight for freedom. This book has a great plot, solid (if not compelling) characters and is well written.
There is no depth to this book. I know this is supposed to be a spy thriller, but it is not, as it is fairly predictable. I know very little about the subject though and may be this made me miss some of the details.
I love spy novels, and this was on someone's best of '12 list... (someone from The New Yorker). It was good... and moved nicely... but wasn't quite as satisfying as Ignatious or Littell. Also: I'm pro-Mossad!
different kind of thriller told by young PLO operative posing as student in 1989 London; more at my blog post Spy writing "On a Clear Day I Can Read Forever''
Smart, humane thriller narrated by a young man who has been trained as a PLO undercover operative after having survived the massacre at Sabra Camp in Lebanon. I read it in one day.
Fred Rose
Nice book, interesting characters, a story with twists and not at all clear what the ending may be. But a satisfying ending. Good summer read! Or traveling as the case for me..
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Mischa Hiller was born in England in 1962 and grew up in London, Dar es Salaam and Beirut. Sabra Zoo won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book for Europe and South Asia in 2011. Mischa also won the 2009 European Independent Film Festival script competition for his adaptation of the book. His second novel Shake Off was published to critical acclaim in 2011. He lives with his family in...more
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