Since 2000, when Daniel Silva published The Kill Artist, his fourth novel but the first to feature Gabriel Allon, he has released one book each year starring Allon. Accordingly, The Defectoris the ninth in the Allon series and it is the rousing sequel to Moscow Rules, which appeared in 2008. The risky exploits of The Defector begin just six months after the end of Moscow Rules.
Allon is a James Bond-like secret agent who started his career with the Mossad as a young man recruited to help track down and kill the Arabs involved in the 1972 murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games. He is a skilled art restorer who lives in Italy, where he is often called upon by the Vatican to restore a painting or an altar piece. He is highly esteemed by the Catholic hierarchy, having once blocked an attempt to assassinate the pope. From time to time, the Mossad gives him an assignment.
Moscow Rules recounted Allon's series of perilous adventures in Russia where he blocked Ivan Kharkov, former KBG officer, from selling weapons to al-Qaida. Kharkov was a rich businessman and a secret arms dealer, protected and supported by the highest officials in the Russian government. He remained alive at the end of the book. As The Defector opens, Allon suspects that Kharkov is behind the disappearance of Grigori, a former Russian intelligence officer who helped Allon in Russia and subsequently defected. He was living in London when he suddenly vanished.
Allon's strenuous efforts to find Grigori take him back to Russia at considerable risk.
Also involved in his exciting endeavors are several strong women including his new wife, Chiara; Kharkov's wife, Elena; Grigori's ex-wife, Irina; Russian journalist Olga Sukhova; and CIA agent Sarah Bancroft. These unusual individuals play critical roles as Allon's duel with Kharkov reaches a crescendo of hazardous and lethal danger.
As is always the case with Silva's novels, the real world provides a menacing background for his story. For example, in 2006, Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian intelligence operative who defected to the West, was killed on a London street. The Russian government, seeking to regain its superpower status, tries to quash criticism by the large number of Russian émigrés who live in England and Israel. There are rich Russians, protected by the state and there are clandestine arms dealers. These ingredients come alive in Silva's stirring story that hurtles from place to place in a hair-raising series of electrifying adventures.
This book demonstrates once again that Silva is a gifted master of the espionage story. He carefully selects its elements, giving them a beginning, a middle and an ending, while using the material to develop and portray the character of those who people the pages of the book. They all come to life for the reader, showing how Silva possesses the primary attributes of a fine writer. His many fans will be properly enthusiastic about this latest addition to the outstanding Gabriel Allon series.
The writer is the founding dean, Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University and dean emeritus, School of Social Work, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.