I will admit that I’d not come across Daniel Silva’s books before, despite having ‘aquired’ a few along the way. I don’t know what his reputation is, if I’m supposed not to like his stuff, or if I’m supposed to think he’s the best in his field.
So…I will admit that this gripped me from the off, only loosening its grip a couple of times along the way. It is, or at least started off being, right up my street – with an old, Jewish, veteran of World War II being killed and the killing made to look like it was the work of Neo-Nazis. There’s an art restorer in Venice, I think it was, who is contacted, re-activated I suppose it should be, and sent by Israeli security to find the killer(s).
I find out later, that the main man, this art-restorer agent, is actually one of Silva’s heroes and that this is book three, featuring him. I didn’t know that at the time and it didn’t seem like I was made to feel like I was missing anything, by not having read the previous books – and that’s a good thing. He does go uncomfortably near Dan Brown territory sometimes, but I guess that’s almost unavoidable in this sort of thriller. Fortunately it wasnt too many times, but eyes do go – appropriately enough – heavenward, at the mention of secret Catholic, Italian, behind the scenes, secretly controlling everything Brotherhoods. They’re never sisterhoods, these things. Why is that? Maybe women writers have sisterhoods in their books, I don’t know.
He’s a good writer, it was appropriately well woven. The grip did lessen somewhat, when I felt the novel moved from The Arms Maker of Berlin territory, to James Bond. With the assassin for hire, living as recluse in valley in Switzerland with expensive but ‘perfect’ taste, expert skier etc, etc, plastic surgeon altering his face periodically (!). It got a little predictable, falling neatly into the trap all American thriller writers fall into, by equating money with taste and expensive things showing sophistication, the more expensive the ’taste’ the more sophisticated the villain is. And of course, the more sophisticated a person is, the more evil they must be. However, it finally came back strongly, to go Day of The Jackally. The good parts are the more believable sections, relating to WWII and the whole (possibly) centres around The Wannsee Conference of 20 January, 1942: “The most despicable luncheon in history” as he neatly describes it here.
Yes, it was sometimes a little formulaic, but it’s a formula I like, so that’s ok and it feels generally a cut-above the average. I think it would have succeeded better, especially in the believability stakes, if he had aimed a little lower and not at “the epicenter of the Roman Catholic Church” as Dan Brown et al, always feel they need to. I think, seen stepping back, it was my kind of espionage, thriller, one that will just about keep you guessing, keep you looking for possible clues to the end. Nothing world-shattering, but a decent enough waste of my time. I’ll have to get on to the previous ones in the series. So I suppose it’s done its job there.