Hercule Poirot. Sherlock Holmes. Gabriel Allon. Fictional characters in the investigative genre who have kept us awake at night, biting our fingernails and turning the pages. If you have been following author Daniel Silva's 22 books about his legendary spy Gabriel Allon, you probably won't be surprised to learn that Allon has retired from "The Office"... the Israeli intelligence service. The author has hinted at this in his last few books. Since then, Allon, his second wife Chiara and their two children have moved to Venice.
As he prepares to settle into an idyllic life, working alongside his wife in art restoration, Allon's longtime friend and art dealer Julian Isherwood tells him that a woman who sent him a letter asking to meet regarding an important painting never showed - with good reason; she's dead! Further investigation suggests Julian may have bought and sold a fake painting; if true, it would discredit him and bring down his entire operation. This is the problem. I must not reveal more.
Now the pleasures of a good work of fiction cannot be described well enough. Fans of Jeffrey Archer for instance will agree how he makes you read on with urgency. Similarly, Allon is a very famous spy and a very important part of many people’s childhoods. Here are five things to commend this book for-
1) Silva’s rich and relatable descriptions of people, places and things , invariably make his books a real treat to read. The devil always lies in the details.
2) Like all good plots, the author immerses you in the plot. So, when you come out of the book; you feel you know more about art and are prepared to have a conversation about it. For instance; the book gives insights about detailing to recognise real from fake. As spy-thriller as this novel might get, it also highlights the dark side of the art world. Beneath the surface, the world of art is just as cutthroat as any other profession. You get willingly educated as you read on.
3) The plot gets interesting when Allon conceives an elaborate deception. He pretends to be the the greatest art forger the world has ever known; to catch the man who eludes him. And as usual, Silva takes you on a journey around the world, in keeping with his unique brand of international intrigue.
4) Dialogues between the characters are seamless with no cringe elements; like they are in real life. The ease of reading is a gift to the reader.
5) It's no easy feat to keep a character fresh and intriguing for 22 books. Another Allon fan however confessed to me that they missed the team that he normally works with. Methinks it would be useful to read at least one book before this; to understand his retired life juxtaposed against his usual busy life.
Daniel Silva has authored twenty-five novels, including very popular ones like The Other Woman, The New Girl, Moscow Rules, The Defector, The Rembrandt Affair, Portrait of a Spy and The Order. His books have been translated into more than thirty languages. Proof that a good story will appeal to just about everyone.
The Kill Artist is the first book in which he introduced us to Gabriel Allon. With ‘Portrait of an Unknown Woman’, other reviewers before me have said that parts of the book require the reader to suspend belief and embrace Allon with love. Perhaps all entertainment shares this in common - a leap of faith and an emotional connection to the creator’s art.
Reeta Ramamurthy Gupta is a columnist and bestselling biographer. She is credited with the internationally acclaimed Red Dot Experiment, a decadal six-nation study on how ‘culture impacts communication.’ On Twitter @OfficialReetaRG