Harper, $26.99, 448 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-207218-4
We’re reviewing a thriller by one of the big-guns in MBR number 40. The book is Portrait of a Spy by Daniel Silva. Daniel Silva is hands down, the best international thriller and spy novelist writer in the genre today. If you liked Ian Fleming, John LeCarre, or Robert Ludlum at the top of their game, you’ll love Dan Silva and his iconoclastic protagonist, Gabriel Allon. Allon is one of the most interesting serial characters in literature: a world class art restorer and a notable artist on his own merits, while at the same time a spy and master assassin for Israeli’s Mossad, one of the most talented, feared, and agreeably the best, spy agencies in the world today.
As the novel opens Allon is retired and living anonymously in Cornwall, England. Trouble begins however, when he’s in London to authenticate a painting by Titian, one of the great Renaissance painters and foremost of the Italian Old Masters. His way to lunch in Covington Garden with his wife Chiara, he sees what he believes is a dead man: a suicide bomber. Following his instincts and training, he tails the man believing him to be the third terrorist of the day, after suicide bombers had already detonated in Paris and Copenhagen earlier that morning. Drawing his weapon and preparing to fire however, he’s taken down, arrested, and hauled off to jail. The bomber detonates his vest . . . mayhem ensues as seven are killed, and dozens are maimed. Allon, depressed by his failure to prevent the massacre, is summoned to Washington, D.C. by the CIA, with the approval and cooperation of the Israeli government, and drawn into the hunt for the new Bin Laden, an American-born cleric . . . and former CIA operative. The resulting chase and manhunt takes Allon and his team from the juxtaposed art world, with all its beauty, glitz, and glamour, to the world of intelligence, and all its life and death consequences. Quoting the dust jacket, “Featuring a climax that will haunt the reader . . . this entertaining story . . . is also a portrait of courage in the face of unspeakable evil.” I can’t say it any better. This one’s for the mellisons, and all of my dedicated reading friends everywhere: Read this one. You’ll love it.