April 8, 2014 by Ray Yanek
Okay, first of all, Gabriel Allon isn’t necessarily an artist. He’s a master art restorer.
And secondly, well, Gabriel Allon isn’t actually a real person either…
He’s actually the protagonist of the spy thriller series written by Daniel Silva. But because he is an art restorer and the books usually begin with Allon working diligently on real-world art tucked away in some European church, I felt he fit in with the theme of this blog challenge rather nicely.
Plus, if you’re looking for a helluva book that includes mystery, intrigue, lessons in art, history, or current world events, this series is for you.
Gabriel Allon the child of a mother who survived the Holocaust and of a father who didn’t, comes from a long line of artistic talent. His grandfather (who was also killed in the Holocaust) was a respected painter in Germany and his daughter, Gabriel’s mother, acquired his talent. Gabriel possessed the family talent also and chose to enroll in art school immediately after finishing his required term in the Israeli army.
Gabriel harbored other talents as well. Although he passed on an appointment to an elite military branch so that he could attend the art school, Allon never passed out of the sight of Israeli intelligence.
In 1972, Allon was recruited by Israeli intelligence to carry out assassination missions on members of Black September the group responsible for the murder of the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. Allon agreed and became the primary assassin in the operations that spread across Europe.
The mission helped forge Allon’s legend within the office, where he continued to work for many years doing everything from more assassinations, apprehending Nazi war criminals, aiding defectors of various enemy countries, retrieving political kidnap victims, and much more.
The work has cost Allon dearly, though. During the Wrath of God operations in the 70’s, the missions were so harrowing, dangerous, and morally devastating, that Allon’s sideburns turned white. Later, in 1992, Allon was the victim of a revenge car bombing in Vienna that took the life of his young son and sent his wife to a psychiatric hospital in Israel, where she remains, lost in her own world.
Despite everything else that the job has taken away from him, it did not take away his love for art. Instead, Gabriel assumed the identity of Mario Delvecchio, the art restorer who specializes in Old Master paintings. In his times away from the Office, he practices his beloved art and hopes that some day the Office will no longer need his services.
I love these books for a variety of reasons. Without a doubt they are, despite their sometimes operational and procedural nature, action packed and thrilling reads. Allon grapples with the moral issues involved in the actions he is sometimes forced to take in order to protect his country. His character feels the effects of those actions. Obviously, with the state of the world as it is, and with people lining up with their wish to destroy Israel, the stories are often immediate and timely.
On a simpler note, the stories are just fun to read as well. The action bounces from European country to European country and Silva, a consummate researcher, puts you in those locales. Gabriel’s team members are original and well drawn and, as cliche as this may sound, spending time with the team is like sitting around with old friends. This increased the tension when the operation ensues and they face the enemy.
All in all a fine series of books.
To see Daniel Silva’s Amazon page click here.