Silva’s latest bid to spin international-intrigue headlines into gold delivers as muckraking quasi-journalism but not as espionage fiction.
Twenty-five years after his wife found a secret about his past so dreadful that she dug her own grave and shot herself, Zürich banker Augustus Rolfe has a Raphael canvas he needs cleaned, and asks London dealer Julian Isherwood to send Signor Mario Delvecchio to do the job personally. Arriving bright and early at Rolfe’s villa, the restorer finds his employer dead. The situation is delicate because Delvecchio is really Israeli secret agent Gabriel Allon (The Kill Artist, 2000), and he’s obviously been set up. Even after his boss, Ari Shamron, leans on Gerhardt Peterson, of the Swiss Division of Analysis and Protection, to turn him loose with a stern warning never to set foot in Switzerland again, troubles remain. Some of them are riddles about the past only deepened by Anna Rolfe, the celebrated violinist Gabriel persuades to help investigate her father’s death: Why did Rolfe’s killer steal his priceless secret collection and carefully leave the Raphael behind? What was Rolfe’s connection to the long Swiss banking legacy of accepting Nazi-looted treasures? But the more urgent look toward the future: Who is the English assassin who closed down Rolfe’s account for good, and how can Gabriel protect his daughter from the danger that’s coming closer to her with every fresh corpse? Sadly, having set up a well-oiled plot that straddles a fine line between whistle-blowing, ethical dilemmas, and blood-and-thunder melodrama, Silva opts for melodrama, and the rest is dueling agents and anticlimaxes, with the persistently shadowy English assassin the most deplorable casualty.
A sensitive hero, a sturdy historical backstory, action aplenty, lots of glam locations—all most likely to impress readers who’ll be shocked, shocked to imagine that those Swiss bankers might have aided the Nazis, and might be covering their tracks even now.