This is book two of the Gabriel Allon series, by Daniel Silva. This is another great spy novel – just as good as the first.
This one concerns looted Jewish artwork, held in Switzerland. And just as I mentioned that Silva went hard on Israel in The Kill Artist, he goes twice as hard on the Swiss in this novel. He paints Swiss bankers as a bunch of corrupt mobsters and Switzerland as basically one big, organized crime syndicate that helped the Nazis throughout the Second World War.
I became aware of the Nazi art problem in the 1990s, I believe. I’m sure it had been news before that, but it seemed like the problem broke into the mainstream about then – it was all over the news for a while, and I don’t think it was something the general public was aware of. (I want to say this coincided with the movie The Monuments Men but that didn’t come out until 2014, based on a book from 2007.)
There’s a nice fit here since Gabriel is an art restorer and his friend Julian Isherwood runs a gallery. Julian plays into this novel a little more, but I’m still waiting on him to get some decent “page time.”
Also, weirdly, just like in the first novel, a trained assassin that the book has spent hundreds of pages building up, for some reason decides not to go through with their assignment. I thought that was odd in the first one, but especially so in this one since that assassin is literally the title of the novel. One has to assume he comes back into the series at some point.
Silva’s books are first-rate page-turners. They move quickly and they have a great ability to keep you right on the edge of knowing what’s going on. And that’s a real trick – know too much and it’s boring; know too little and it’s frustrating.
I’ve already ordered the third one.