Stalwart Israeli agent Gabriel Allon goes in pursuit of stolen art and uncovers billions of dollars purloined by the Butcher of Damascus in this latest by master spycrafter Silva (The English Girl, 2013, etc.).
Allon—part-time art restorer, full-time agent for "the Office," Israel's supersecret spy shop—is working on a Venice restoration project and awaiting the birth of twins with his wife, Chiara. Silva’s setup won’t confuse new readers. As a bonus, he incorporates a precis on classic art, particularly Caravaggio. Soon appears Gen. Ferrari, a policeman tracking art thefts. Ferrari’s a solidly Silva character, not above extorting Allon. A former English diplomat named Bradshaw has been murdered at his Lake Como villa. Ferrari threatens to pin the killing on Allon’s friend Isherwood, the art dealer who discovered the body, unless Allon finds the real killer. Rumor has it that Bradshaw, actually a cashiered spy, may have been in possession of Caravaggio’s priceless "Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence," missing for decades. Sketching complicated logistics and technical details about nefarious art dealings, Silva finagles the left-turn plot twist that makes him a best-seller: Allon discovers stolen art is being used to hide money for Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian dictator. Allon steals Van Gogh’s "Sunflowers" to lure the Butcher’s buyer. Next, Allon heads home to Israel, where Office teammates join the fray, complicated by a few "internecine battles." There’s growing resentment over Allon being slotted as the next Office chief. With stolen art spotted and the source of the buying spree laid to the Alawite rulers, art geeks take a back seat to computer nerds as the team descends on a private bank in Linz, Austria, to pry loose the Butcher’s billions. In erudition, action and temperament, Silva has made Allon the modern-day covert warrior extraordinaire.
With "a fallen British spy, a one-eyed Italian policeman, a master art thief, [and] a professional assassin from the island of Corsica," Allon’s 14th caper is a fun read.