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The Barnes & Noble Review
Daniel Silva's fourth novel, The Kill Artist, introduced an unusual but credible new hero: Gabriel Allon, a world-class art restorer and former member of the Israeli Secret Service. The Kill Artist brought Allon out of retirement to confront the Palestinian agent who destroyed his family. In Allon's latest adventure, The English Assassin, he comes out of retirement once again and finds himself enmeshed in a murder investigation whose roots reach back to the cataclysmic policies of Nazi Germany.
Allon's involvement begins when he accepts a commission to restore a priceless Raphael original. He travels to Zurich, only to find that his client -- wealthy Swiss banking magnate Augustus Rolfe -- has been shot to death just hours before. On the heels of that discovery, Allon is arrested by the Swiss police and narrowly avoids prosecution. When Allon's former mentor, legendary spymaster Ari Shamron, informs him that Rolfe had recently requested a meeting with the Israeli Secret Service, Allon launches an investigation of his own.
At the heart of the novel's central mystery lies another mystery. According to the victim's daughter, world-famous violinist Anna Rolfe, a valuable collection of Impressionist paintings disappeared from Rolfe's house at the time of the murder. The paintings, as Allon discovers, may have been part of the vast collection looted by the Nazis before and during World War II. As Allon pursues the missing paintings, he begins to understand the close -- in fact, collaborative -- relationship that once existed between the Nazi hierarchy and the wealthy banking community of neutral Switzerland.
Silva's prose is clean and uncluttered, his action sequences crisp and effective, his sense of place impeccable, and his varied cast of characters all sharply individualized. Ultimately, though, it's the impressive level of secondary detail -- the scrupulous historical research, the insights into the arcane world of the professional art restorer -- that give this book its distinctive flavor and lift it above the level of the garden variety espionage novel. Like The Kill Artist, The English Assassin is an intelligent, informed, engrossing entertainment that is deeply rooted in the historical realities of a violent, tragic century. (Bill Sheehan)
Bill Sheehan reviews horror, suspense, and science fiction for Cemetery Dance, The New York Review of Science Fiction, and other publications. His book-length critical study of the fiction of Peter Straub, At the Foot of the Story Tree, won the International Horror Guild's award for best nonfiction book of 2000.