Four years ago, Daniel Silva hit the ground running with The Unlikely Spy, a big, ambitious World War II drama that evoked comparisons with Robert Harris, Ken Follett, and John Le Carré. In his fourth and latest novel, The Kill Artist, Silva turns to the twisted history and undying blood feuds of the Middle East and solidifies his position as one of the most accomplished new practitioners of the international thriller.
The hero of The Kill Artist is Gabriel Allon, a world-class art restorer and former Israeli intelligence agent who lost his wife and son to a Palestinian car bombing in 1991. As the novel opens, Gabriel is living a solitary, tightly focused existence on the Cornish coast of England when a figure from the past -- legendary spymaster Ari Shamron -- reenters his life. Shamron, the agent responsible for the kidnapping and capture of Adolph Eichman, has a brand new scheme in mind, a scheme that requires Gabriel Allon's services.
A renegade Arab terrorist known only as Tariq has recently resurfaced. He has murdered a number of prominent Israeli supporters, and his reign of terror threatens the success of the delicately balanced Middle East peace talks. Faced with the prospect of confronting Tariq, the man responsible for the destruction of his family, Gabriel comes out of retirement, and agrees to mount the final intelligence initiative of his career.
The operation that follows is a tortuous affair, marked by departmental wrangling, hidden political agendas, and wheels within wheels. The action unfolds in a series of crisp, tightly constructed set pieces that range from the capitals of Europe (Paris, London, Lisbon) to Jerusalem itself, with intermittent stops in Montreal, New York City, and Washington, DC. Characters caught up in the drama include a London-based art dealer who has fallen on hard times, a Rupert Murdoch- style media magnate, and a world famous fashion model whose glossy, high-profile lifestyle conceals her tragic family history, and her occasional role as a clandestine operative for the Israeli secret service.
John Le Carré -- particularly the Le Carré of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and The Little Drummer Girl -- is a pervasive presence throughout this novel. And though Silva never quite reaches Le Carré's level of stylistic mastery and psychological complexity, he has clearly absorbed some valuable lessons, and has developed into a strong, seductive storyteller with his own distinctive voice. The Kill Artist is a moving, thoughtful, evenhanded examination of a troubled corner of the world, and it deserves the attention of serious thriller fans everywhere.
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, has been published by Subterranean Press (www.subterraneanpress.com).