I have read only a few in this series, but I always enjoy this author and the main character. I am in good company because President Bill Clinton says that Gabriel Allon is his favorite fictional character. This is the 2012 release, so I am one behind...besides the books I haven't read yet sprinkled throughout the series. If you enjoy thrillers or intrigue, check this series out.
Copyright: July 2012 (Harper) 432 pgs
Series: 12th in Gabriel Allon Spy Adventures
Sensuality: some adult references
Mystery Sub-genre: Intrigue, Thriller
Main Characters: Gabriel Allon, art restorer, assassin, and Israeli spy legend
Setting: Modern day, Vatican, Jerusalem, St. Moritz in Switzerland, Berlin and Vienna.
Obtained Through: Public Library
Gabriel is restoring one of Caravaggio's greatest masterpieces at the Vatican. He is summoned one morning to St. Peter's Basilica by Monsignor Luigi Donati, the private secretary to Pope Paul VII. Apparently, a beautiful woman had fallen to her death from Michelangelo's painted ceiling dome of the Basilica. The Vatican police are quick to conclude suicide, but Donati would not have asked Gabriel to view the scene if he agreed. Gabriel's trained eye sees murder, not suicide. Dr. Claudia Andreatti was a curator in the Vatican's antiquities division and was conducting a discreet investigation into the provenance of the Vatican's holdings. This is more a prudent precaution with all the artwork that has been "liberated" during wars over the centuries so the Vatican isn't surprised by an art piece's checkered past.
Dr. Claudia Andreatti had stumbled upon a global criminal enterprise that is looting timeless treasures of antiquity and selling them to the highest bidder. The money is being laundered through the Vatican's bank and ends up with Middle Eastern extremists. Gabriel is once again whisked out of retirement to prevent the next world war. When you read a Gabriel Allon novel, you expect he will be saving the world once again and this book is another gripping roller-coaster ride, but even Gabriel could not have foreseen where this would take him.
Gabriel is a fascinating character whose artist's soul wants to focus on beauty and art. But he is also a highly skilled and legendary Israeli Intelligence operative who heeds the call when his homeland of Israel needs him. He is tragic in that his car was bombed resulting in the death of his son and serious injury to his first wife, Leah in the fictional 1991. His wife survived and lives in a psychiatric hospital. Gabriel seems humane and compassionate, while being a convincing spy and assassin. His art keeps him sane after all the destruction he has seen and done.
Chiara is second wife who I would like featured more of her intelligence work. I feel there is much more for this character to give that we haven't begun to see yet. But I admit that I haven't read all the novels. I should probably go back to "The Confessor" and catch up on Chiara before she retired from the spy trade. Leah, Gabriel's ex-wife in the asylum makes an appearance in this novel - almost as a specter of what loving Gabriel can do to a woman. Ari Shamron, archeologist Eli Lavon (a favorite character), and the new Mossad leader Uzi Navot are all part of the supporting case and have their strong points. But Dina Sarid is the background character that I found fascinating. I hope she gets more page time in upcoming novels. You feel like you have actually spent time with these characters as they are each so well written. Monsignor Luigi Donati is given a past in this story that makes him more layered. His old flame, Veronica Marchese, is married to one of the organized crime bosses that Gabriel will tackle.
Gabriel travels a lot in this book as in the rest of the series. I did feel that the Vatican and Jerusalem locations seemed particularly vivid and evoked a definite atmosphere.
The plot develops as the story unfolds since there is a strong aspect of misdirection and distraction through most of the book. The intricate ins and outs are realistic and don't bog down the action. There is a good balance of Gabriel's introspection, narrative on fine points of illegal antiquities sales and money laundering to fund extremists, and the action of finely timed kidnappings and shoot outs etc.
The climax was built up to a nail biting scene that delivered blood pounding tension. The wrap-up was cheer worthy and oh-so satisfying.
A classic Gabriel Allon novel with international intrigue and several suspenseful operations to stop an imminent terrorist attack that could spark a world war. If you like well written intrigue, you will enjoy this one.
Rating: Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.
Here is an interview with Daniel Silva about this book and his inspiration for Gabriel Allon.