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Prince of Fire (Gabriel Allon Series #5)

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Overview

Gabriel Allon is back in Venice, when a terrible explosion in Rome leads to a disturbing personal revelation: the existence of a dossier in terrorist hands that strips away his secrets, lays bare his history. Hastily recalled home to Israel, drawn once more into the heart of a service he had once forsaken, Allon finds himself stalking an elusive master terrorist across a landscape drenched with generations of blood, the trail turning on itself until, finally, he can no longer be certain who is stalking whom. And ...

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Prince of Fire (Gabriel Allon Series #5)

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Overview

Gabriel Allon is back in Venice, when a terrible explosion in Rome leads to a disturbing personal revelation: the existence of a dossier in terrorist hands that strips away his secrets, lays bare his history. Hastily recalled home to Israel, drawn once more into the heart of a service he had once forsaken, Allon finds himself stalking an elusive master terrorist across a landscape drenched with generations of blood, the trail turning on itself until, finally, he can no longer be certain who is stalking whom. And when at last the showdown comes, it will not be Gabriel alone who is threatened with destruction - for it is not his history alone that has been laid bare.

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Editorial Reviews

Richard Lipez
While the historical background is thoughtfully laid out, it's the action and the man always at its center that keep Prince of Fire churning along and sometimes doubling back on itself entertainingly.
— The Washington Post
The New Yorker
Silva’s fourth novel, “The Kill Artist,” introduced Gabriel Allon, an Israeli secret agent and the unlikely guardian of Yasir Arafat during the Oslo peace negotiations. In the three books that followed, Arafat demonstrated his appreciation by repeatedly trying to have Allon murdered. In the latest installment, the Israeli Embassy in Rome is destroyed by a Palestinian bomb, and Allon is summoned from Venice, where he poses as a world-class art restorer, to hunt down the terrorist. That the bomber also happens to moonlight as a famous French archeologist is mere coincidence. How these two could operate undetected in such gossipy professions is itself a mystery, but Silva manages to render the rest of the tense cat-and-mouse plot more credibly. Though he doesn’t disguise his (now, perhaps, obsolete) antipathy for Arafat, Silva adorns his other characters—the true believer, the spymaster, the lover—with enough fine thoughts to make them sympathetic.
Publishers Weekly
Silva's latest novel to feature art restorer/Israeli agent Gabriel Allon (after 2004's A Death in Vienna) is a passionate, intelligently crafted entry that cements the series' place among today's top spy fiction. The structure is classic-the semireluctant spy, Gabriel, is pulled from his cover to hunt down terrorists who have committed a horrific crime, in this case the bombing of the Israeli embassy in Rome. The mastermind behind the bombing is French archeologist Paul Martineau, aka "Khaled, son of Sabri, grandson of Sheikh Asad. Khaled, avenger of past wrongs, sword of Palestine." Orphaned as a child after his father is killed by the Israelis, Khaled is also the adopted son of Yasir Arafat, who has now activated Khaled to wreak vengeance on his mortal enemies. Gabriel assembles a team of crack young agents and sets out to find when and where Khaled will strike next. The determined team tracks down the terrorist, but when Gabriel goes in for the kill the plot takes a stunning twist; the lives of all, plus hundreds of innocent bystanders, are threatened. Gabriel is a complex character with a rich past. His wife, Leah, is confined to a psychiatric hospital in London, mentally damaged and physically disfigured from the bombing that killed their son. He lives with the beautiful Chiara, whom he can't marry out of loyalty to Leah, even though she seems to barely know him. Silva hints at further entries in the series in which Gabriel must step up and assume new duties: "Gabriel, you are the mightiest," his former mentor tells the agent. "You're the one who defends Israel against its accusers. You're the angel of judgment-the Prince of Fire." Agent, Esther Newberg. (Feb. 22) Forecast: This series is getting better with each new entry, which should result in increasing sales. Author tour. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Following the bombing of the Israeli consulate in Rome, secret agent Gabriel Allon is called upon to track down the person responsible, a third-generation Palestinian terrorist who attacked Gabriel's family ten years earlier. In Silva's fifth and most intimate Allon tale, Gabriel is tired of the spy game and longs for solace through his cover as an Italian art restorer. Gabriel is also torn between his loyalty to his invalid wife and his love for a younger woman, between his patriotism and his devotion to art. As usual, Silva balances history, action, and moral issues quite well, with his account of the evolution of the terrorist especially gripping. Some may find the novel a bit more talky than the author's previous efforts and the conclusion somewhat perfunctory, but it is always fascinating. Guerin Barry handles the voices expertly. Recommended for popular collections. Michael Adams, CUNY Graduate Ctr. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780451215734
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 2/7/2006
  • Series: Gabriel Allon Series , #5
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 66,698
  • Product dimensions: 4.34 (w) x 7.56 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel Silva is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Moscow Rules and 10 other international bestselling spy novels. Best known for his Gabriel Allon series, his books are translated into more than 25 languages. Silva lives in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington DC with his wife, NBC Today National Correspondent Jamie Gangel and their twins Lily and Nicholas.
Photo of the author: John Earle, photographer

Biography

Daniel Silva was attending graduate school in San Francisco when United Press International offered him a temporary job covering the 1984 Democratic National Convention. Later that year, the wire service offered him full-time employment; he quit grad school and went to work for UPI -- first in San Francisco, then in Washington, D.C., and finally as a Middle East Correspondent posted in Cairo. While covering the Iran-Iraq War in 1987, he met NBC correspondent Jamie Gangel. They married, and Silva returned to Washington to take a job with CNN.

Silva was still at CNN when, with the encouragement of his wife, he began work on his first novel, a WWII espionage thriller. Published in 1997, The Unlikely Spy became a surprise bestseller and garnered critical acclaim. ("Evocative... memorable..." said The Washington Post; "Briskly suspenseful," raved The New York Times). On the heels of this somewhat unexpected success, Silva quit his job to concentrate on writing.

Other books followed, all earning respectable reviews; but it was Silva's fourth novel that proved to be his big breakthrough. Featuring a world-famous art restorer and sometime Israeli agent named Gabriel Allon, The Kill Artist (2000) fired public imagination and soared to the top of the bestseller charts. Gabriel Allon has gone on to star in several sequels, and his creator has become one of our foremost novelists of espionage intrigue, earning comparisons to such genre superstars as John Le Carré. Frederick Forsythe, and Robert Ludlum. Silva's books have been translated into more than 25 languages and have been published around the world.

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Read an Excerpt


Chapter 1

ROME: MARCH 4

THERE HAD BEEN WARNING SIGNS—THE SHABBAT bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that left eighty-seven people dead; the bombing of an Istanbul synagogue, precisely one year later, that killed another twenty-eight—but Rome would be his coming-out party, and Rome would be the place where he left his calling card.

Afterward, within the corridors and executive suites of Israel’s vaunted intelligence service, there was considerable and sometimes belligerent debate over the time and place of the conspiracy’s genesis. Lev Ahroni, the ever-cautious director of the service, would claim that the plot was hatched not long after the Israeli army knocked down Arafat’s headquarters in Ramallah and stole his secret files. Ari Shamron, the legendary Israeli master spy, would find this almost laughable, though Shamron often disagreed with Lev simply as a matter of sport. Only Shamron, who had fought with the Palmach during the War of Independence and who tended to view the conflict as a continuum, understood intuitively that the outrage in Rome had been inspired by deeds dating back more than a half century. Eventually, evidence would prove both Lev and Shamron correct. In the meantime, in order to achieve peaceful working conditions, they agreed on a new starting point: the day a certain Monsieur Jean-Luc arrived in the hills of Lazio and settled himself in a rather handsome eighteenth-century villa on the shore of Lake Bracciano.

As for the exact date and time of his arrival, there was no doubt. The owner of the villa, a dubious Belgian aristocrat called Monsieur Laval, said the tenant appeared at two-thirty in the afternoon on the final Friday of March. The courteous but intense young Israeli who called on Monsieur Laval at his home in Brussels wondered how it was possible to recall the date so clearly. The Belgian produced his lavish leather-bound personal calendar and pointed to the date in question. There, penciled on the line designated for 2:30 P.M., were the words: Meet M. Jean-Luc at Bracciano villa.

“Why did you write Bracciano villa instead of just villa?” asked the Israeli visitor, his pen hovering over his open notebook.

“To differentiate it from our St. Tropez villa, our Portuguese villa, and the chalet we own in the Swiss Alps.”

“I see,” said the Israeli, though the Belgian found that his visitor’s tone lacked the humility adopted by most civil servants when confronted by men of great wealth.

And what else did Monsieur Laval remember of the man who rented his villa? That he was punctual, intelligent, and extremely well-mannered. That he was strikingly good-looking, that his scent was noticeable but not obtrusive, that his clothing was expensive but restrained. That he drove a Mercedes car and had two large suitcases with gold buckles and a famous label. That he paid the entire monthlong lease in advance and in cash, which Monsieur Laval explained was not unusual in that part of Italy. That he was a good listener who didn’t need to be told things twice. That he spoke French with the accent of a Parisian from a well-heeled arrondissement. That he seemed like a man who could handle himself well in a fight and who treated his women well. “He was of noble birth,” Laval concluded, with the certainty of one who knows of what he speaks. “He comes from a good bloodline. Write that in your little book.”

Slowly, additional details would emerge about the man called Jean-Luc, though none conflicted with Monsieur Laval’s flattering portrait. He hired no cleaning woman and demanded the gardener arrive punctually at nine o’clock and leave by ten. He shopped in nearby market squares and attended Mass in the medieval lakeside village of Anguillara. He spent much time touring the Roman ruins of Lazio and seemed particularly intrigued by the ancient necropolis at Cerveteri.

Sometime in the middle of March—the date could never be reliably established—he vanished. Even Monsieur Laval could not be certain of the departure date, because he was informed after the fact by a woman in Paris who claimed to be the gentleman’s personal assistant. Though two weeks remained on the lease, the handsome tenant did not embarrass himself, or Monsieur Laval, by asking for a refund. Later that spring, when Monsieur Laval visited the villa, he was surprised to discover, in a crystal bowl on the dining room sideboard, a brief thank-you note, typewritten, along with a hundred euros to pay for broken wineglasses. A thorough search of the villa’s stemware collection, however, revealed nothing was missing. When Monsieur Laval tried to call Jean-Luc’s girl in Paris to return the money, he found that her telephone line had been disconnected.

ON THE FRINGES of the Borghese gardens there are elegant boulevards and quiet leafy side streets that bear little resemblance to the scruffy, tourist-trodden thoroughfares of the city center. They are avenues of diplomacy and money, where traffic moves at a nearly reasonable speed and where the blare of car horns sounds like a rebellion in distant lands. One such street is a cul-de-sac. It falls away at a gentle pitch and bends to the right. For many hours each day, it is in shadow, a consequence of the towering stone pine and eucalyptus that loom over the villas. The narrow sidewalk is broken by tree roots and perpetually covered by pine needles and dead leaves. At the end of the street is a diplomatic compound, more heavily fortified than most in Rome.

Survivors and witnesses would recall the perfection of that late-winter morning: bright and clear, cold enough in the shadows to bring on a shiver, warm enough in the sun to unbutton a wool coat and dream of an alfresco lunch. The fact it was also a Friday served only to heighten the leisurely atmosphere. In diplomatic Rome, it was a morning to dawdle over a cappuccino and cornetto, to take stock of one’s circumstances and ponder one’s mortality. Procrastination was the order of the day. Many mundane meetings were canceled. Much routine paperwork was put off till Monday.

On the little cul-de-sac near the Borghese gardens there were no outward signs of the catastrophe to come. The Italian police and security agents guarding the perimeter fortifications chatted lazily in the patches of brilliant sunshine. Like most diplomatic missions in Rome, it officially contained two embassies, one dealing with the Italian government, the second with the Vatican. Both embassies opened for business at their appointed times. Both ambassadors were in their offices.

At ten-fifteen a tubby Jesuit waddled down the hill, a leather satchel in his hand. Inside was a diplomatic démarche from the Vatican Secretariat of State, condemning the Israeli army’s recent incursion into Bethlehem. The courier deposited the document with an embassy clerk and puffed his way back up the hill. Afterward, the text would be made public, and its sharp language would prove a temporary embarrassment to the men of the Vatican. The courier’s timing would prove providential. Had he arrived five minutes later, he would have been vaporized, along with the original text of the démarche.

Not so fortunate were the members of an Italian television crew who had come to interview the ambassador on the current state of affairs in the Middle East. Or the delegation of local Jewish crusaders who had come to secure the ambassador’s public condemnation of a neo-Nazi conference scheduled for the following week in Verona. Or the Italian couple, sickened by the new rise of European anti-Semitism, who were about to inquire about the possibility of emigrating to Israel. Fourteen in all, they were standing in a tight cluster at the business entrance, waiting to be body-searched by the embassy’s short-haired security toughs, when the white freight truck made a right turn into the cul-de-sac and began its death run toward the compound.

Most heard the truck before they saw it. The convulsive roar of its diesel engine was a violent intrusion on the otherwise still morning. It was impossible to ignore. The Italian security men paused in mid-conversation and looked up, as did the group of fourteen strangers gathered outside the entrance of the embassy. The tubby Jesuit, who was waiting for a bus at the opposite end of the street, lifted his round head from his copy of L’Osservatore Romano and searched for the source of the commotion.

The gentle slope of the street helped the truck gather speed at an astonishing rate. As it rounded the bend, the massive load in its cargo container pushed the truck heavily onto two wheels. For an instant it seemed it might topple. Then somehow it righted itself and began the final straight-line plunge toward the compound.

The driver was briefly visible through the windshield. He was young and clean-shaven. His eyes were wide, his mouth agape. He seemed to be standing atop the gas pedal, and he seemed to be shouting at himself. For some reason the wipers were on.

The Italian security forces reacted immediately. Several took cover behind the reinforced concrete barriers. Others dived for the protection of the steel-and-glass guard posts. Two officers could be seen pouring automatic fire toward the marauding truck. Sparks exploded on the grille, and the windshield shattered, but the truck continued unhindered, gathering speed until the point of impact. Afterward, the government of Israel would commend the heroism shown by the Italian security services that morning. It would be noted that none fled their positions, though if they had, their fate would have been precisely the same.

The explosion could be heard from St. Peter’s Square to the Piazza di Spagna to the Janiculum Hill. Those on the upper floors of buildings were treated to the remarkable sight of a red-and-orange fireball rising over the northern end of the Villa Borghese, followed quickly by a pitch-black mushroom cloud of smoke. Windows a mile from the blast point were shattered by the thunderclap of the shock wave, including the stained-glass windows in a nearby church. Plane trees were stripped of their leaves. Birds died in mid-flight. Geologists at a seismic monitoring station first feared that Rome had been shaken by a moderate earthquake.

None of the Italian security men survived the initial blast. Nor did any of the fourteen visitors waiting to be admitted to the mission, or the embassy personnel who happened to be working in offices closest to the spot where the truck exploded.

Ultimately, though, it was the second vehicle that inflicted the most loss of life. The Vatican courier, who had been knocked to the ground by the force of the blast, saw the car turn into the cul-de-sac at high speed. Because it was a Lancia sedan, and because it was carrying four men and traveling at a high rate of speed, he assumed it was a police vehicle responding to the bombing. The priest got to his feet and started toward the scene through the dense black smoke, hoping to be of assistance to the wounded and the dead alike. Instead he saw a scene from a nightmare. The doors of the Lancia opened simultaneously, and the four men he assumed to be police officers began firing into the compound. Survivors who staggered from the burning wreckage of the embassy were mercilessly cut down.

The four gunmen ceased firing at precisely the same time, then clambered back into the Lancia. As they sped away from the burning compound, one of the terrorists aimed his automatic weapon at the Jesuit. The priest made the sign of the cross and prepared himself to die. The terrorist just smiled and disappeared behind a curtain of smoke.

Chapter 2

TIBERIAS, ISRAEL

FIFTEEN MINUTES AFTER THE LAST SHOT WAS FIRED in Rome, the secure telephone rang in the large, honey-colored villa overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Ari Shamron, the twice former director-general of the Israeli secret service, now special adviser to the prime minister on all matters dealing with security and intelligence, took the call in his study. He listened in silence for a moment, his eyes closed tightly in anger. “I’m on my way,” he said, and hung up the phone.

Turning around, he saw Gilah standing in the doorway of the study. She was holding his leather bomber jacket in her hand, and her eyes were damp with tears.

“It just came on the television. How bad?”

“Very bad. The prime minister wants me to help him prepare a statement to the country.”

“Then you shouldn’t keep the prime minister waiting.”

She helped Shamron into his jacket and kissed his cheek. There was simple ritual in this act. How many times had he separated from his wife after hearing that Jews had been killed by a bomb? He had lost count long ago. He had resigned himself, late in life, that it would never end.

“You won’t smoke too many cigarettes?”

“Of course not.”

“Try to call me.”

“I’ll call when I can.”

He stepped out the front door. A blast of cold wet wind greeted him. A storm had stolen down from the Golan during the night and laid siege to the whole of the Upper Galilee. Shamron had been awakened by the first crack of thunder, which he had mistaken for a gunshot, and had lain awake for the rest of the night. For Shamron, sleep was like contraband. It came to him rarely and, once interrupted, never twice in the same night. Usually he found himself wandering the secure file rooms of his memory, reliving old cases, walking old battlefields and confronting enemies vanquished long ago. Last night had been different. He’d had a premonition of imminent disaster, an image so clear that he’d actually placed a call to the night desk of his old service to see if anything had happened. “Go back to sleep, Boss,” the youthful duty officer had said. “Everything’s fine.”

His black Peugeot, armored and bulletproof, waited at the top of the drive. Rami, the dark-haired head of his security detachment, stood next to the open rear door. Shamron had made many enemies over the years, and because of the tangled demographics of Israel, many lived uncomfortably close to Tiberias. Rami, quiet as a lone wolf and far more lethal, rarely left his master’s side.

Shamron paused for a moment to light a cigarette, a vile Turkish brand he’d been smoking since the Mandate days, then stepped off the veranda. He was short of stature, yet even in old age, powerful in build. His hands were leathery and liver-spotted and seemed to have been borrowed from a man twice his size. His face, full of cracks and fissures, looked like an aerial view of the Negev Desert. His remaining fringe of steel-gray hair was cropped so short as to be nearly invisible. Infamously hard on his eyeglasses, he had resigned himself to ugly frames of indestructible plastic. The thick lenses magnified blue eyes that were no longer clear. He walked as though anticipating an assault from behind, with his head down and his elbows out defensively. Within the corridors of King Saul Boulevard, the headquarters of his old service, the walk was known as “the Shamron shuffle.” He knew of the epithet and he approved.

He ducked into the backseat of the Peugeot. The heavy car lurched forward and headed down the treacherously steep drive to the lakeshore. It turned right and sped toward Tiberias, then west, across the Galilee toward the Coastal Plain. Shamron’s gaze, for much of the journey, was focused on the scratched face of his wristwatch. Time was now his enemy. With each passing minute the perpetrators were slipping farther and farther away from the scene of the crime. Had they attempted an attack such as this in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, they would have been snared in a web of checkpoints and roadblocks. But it had occurred in Italy, not Israel, and Shamron was at the mercy of the Italian police. It had been a long time since the Italians had dealt with a major act of terrorism. What’s more, Israel’s link to the Italian government—its embassy—was in ruins. So, too, Shamron suspected, was a very important station of the Israeli secret service. Rome was the regional headquarters for southern Europe. It was led by a katsa named Shimon Pazner, a man whom Shamron had personally recruited and trained. It was quite possible the Office had just lost one of its most competent and experienced officers.

The journey seemed to last an eternity. They listened to the news on Israel Radio, and with each update the situation in Rome seemed to grow worse. Three times, Shamron anxiously reached for his secure cellular phone and three times he snapped it back into its cradle without dialing a number. Leave them to it, he thought. They know what they’re doing. Because of you, they’re well-trained. Besides, it was no time for the special adviser to the prime minister on matters of security and terrorism to be weighing in with helpful suggestions.

Special Adviser . . . How he loathed the title. It stank of ambiguity. He had been the Memuneh: the one in charge. He had seen his blessed service, and his country, through triumph and adversity. Lev and his band of young technocrats had regarded him as a liability and had banished him to the Judean wilderness of retirement. He would have remained there were it not for the lifeline thrown to him by the prime minister. Shamron, master manipulator and puppeteer, had learned that he could exercise nearly as much power from the prime minister’s office as he could from the executive suite of King Saul Boulevard. Experience had taught him to be patient. Eventually it would end up in his lap. It always seemed to.

They began the ascent toward Jerusalem. Shamron could not make this remarkable drive without thinking of old battles. The premonition came to him again. Was it Rome he had seen the night before or something else? Something bigger than even Rome? An old enemy, he was sure of it. A dead man, risen from his past.

THE OFFICE OF the Israeli prime minister is located at 3 Kaplan Street, in the Kiryat Ben-Gurion section of West Jerusalem. Shamron entered the building through the underground parking garage, then went up to his office. It was small but strategically located on the hallway that led to the prime minister’s, which allowed him to see when Lev, or any of the other intelligence and security chiefs, were making their way into the inner sanctum for a meeting. He had no personal secretary, but shared a girl named Tamara with three other members of the security staff. She brought him coffee and switched on the bank of three televisions.

“Varash is scheduled to meet in the prime minister’s office at five o’clock.”

Varash was the Hebrew-language acronym for the Committee of the Heads of the Services. It included the director-general of Shabak, the internal security service; the commander of Aman, military intelligence; and, of course, the chief of Israel’s secret intelligence service, which was referred to only as “the Office.” Shamron, by charter and reputation, had a permanent seat at the table.

“In the meantime,” Tamara said, “he wants a briefing in twenty minutes.”

“Tell him a half hour would be better.”

“If you want a half hour, you tell him.”

Shamron sat down at his desk and, remote in hand, spent the next five minutes scanning the world’s television media for as many overt details as he could. Then he picked up the telephone and made three calls, one to an old contact at the Italian Embassy named Tommaso Naldi; the second to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, located a short distance away on Yitzhak Rabin Boulevard; and the third to Office headquarters on King Saul Boulevard.

“He can’t talk to you now,” said Lev’s secretary. Shamron had anticipated her reaction. It was easier to get through an army checkpoint than Lev’s secretary.

“Put him on the phone,” Shamron said, “or the next call will be from the prime minister.”

Lev kept Shamron waiting five minutes.

“What do you know?” Shamron asked.

“The truth? Nothing.”

“Do we have a Rome station any longer?”

“Not to speak of,” said Lev, “but we do have a Rome katsa. Pazner was in Naples on business. He just checked in. He’s on his way back to Rome now.”

Thank God, thought Shamron. “And the others?”

“It’s hard to tell. As you might imagine, the situation is rather chaotic.” Lev had a grating passion for understatement. “Two clerks are missing, along with the communications officer.”

“Is there anything in the files that might be compromising or embarrassing?”

“The best we can hope for is that they went up in smoke.”

“They’re stored in cabinets built to withstand a missile strike. We’d better get to them before the Italians do.”

Tamara poked her head inside the door. “He wants you. Now.”

“I’ll see you at five o’clock,” Shamron said to Lev, and rang off.

He collected his notes, then followed Tamara along the corridor toward the prime minister’s office. Two members of his Shabak protective detail, large boys with short-cropped hair and shirts hanging outside their trousers, watched Shamron’s approach. One of them stepped aside and opened the door. Shamron slipped past and went inside.

The shades were drawn, the room cool and in semidarkness. The prime minister was seated behind his large desk, dwarfed by a towering portrait of the Zionist leader Theodor Herzl that hung on the wall at his back. Shamron had been in this room many times, yet it never failed to quicken his pulse. For Shamron this chamber represented the end of a remarkable journey, the reconstitution of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel. Birth and death, war and Holocaust—Shamron, like the prime minister, had played a leading role in the entire epic. Privately, they regarded it as their State, their creation, and they guarded it jealously against all those—Arab, Jewish, or Gentile—who sought to weaken or destroy it.

The prime minister, without a word, nodded for Shamron to sit. Small at the head and very wide at the waist, he looked rather like a formation of volcanic rock. His stubby hands lay folded on the desktop; his heavy jowls hung over his shirt collar.

“How bad, Ari?”

“By the end of the day, we’ll have a clearer picture,” Shamron said. “I can say one thing for certain. This will go down as one of the worst acts of terrorism ever committed against the State, if not the worst.”

“How many dead?”

“Still unclear.”

“The ambassadors?”

“Officially, they’re still listed as unaccounted for.”

“And unofficially?”

“It’s believed they’re dead.”

“Both?” Shamron nodded. “And their deputies.”

“How many dead for certain?”

“The Italians report twelve police and security personnel dead. At the moment, the Foreign Ministry is confirming twenty-two personnel killed, along with thirteen family members from the residence complex. Eighteen people remain unaccounted for.”

“Fifty-two dead?”

“At least. Apparently there were several visitors standing at the entrance waiting to be admitted to the building.”

“What about the Office station?”

Shamron repeated what he’d just learned from Lev. Pazner was alive. Three Office employees were feared to be among the dead.

“Who did it?”

“Lev hasn’t reached any—”

“I’m not asking Lev.”

“The list of potential suspects, unfortunately, is long. Anything I might say now would be speculation, and at this point, speculation does us no good.”

“Why Rome?”

“Hard to say,” Shamron said. “Perhaps it was just a target of opportunity. Maybe they saw a weakness, a chink in our armor, and they decided to exploit it.”

“But you don’t believe that?”

“No, Prime Minister.”

“Could it have something to do with that affair at the Vatican a couple of years ago—that business with Allon?”

“I doubt it. All the evidence thus far suggests it was a suicide attack carried out by Arab terrorists.”

“I want to make a statement after Varash meets.”

“I think that would be wise.”

“And I want you to write it for me.”

“If you wish.”

“You know about loss, Ari. We both do. Put some heart into it. Tap that reservoir of Polish pain you’re always carrying around with you. The country will need to cry tonight. Let them cry. But assure them that the animals who did this will be punished.”

“They will, Prime Minister.”

Shamron stood.

“Who did this, Ari?”

“We’ll know soon enough.”

“I want his head,” the prime minister said savagely. “I want his head on a stick.”

“And you shall have it.”

FORTY-EIGHT HOURS would pass before the first break in the case, and it would come not in Rome but in the northern industrial city of Milan. Units of the Polizia di Stato and Carabinieri, acting on a tip from a Tunisian immigrant informant, raided a pensione in a workers’ quarter north of the city center where two of the four surviving attackers were thought to be hiding. The men were no longer there, and based on the condition of the room, they had fled in a hurry. Police discovered a pair of suitcases filled with clothing and a half-dozen cellular telephones, along with false passports and stolen credit cards. The most intriguing item, however, was a compact disk sewn into the lining of one of the bags. Italian investigators at the national crime laboratory in Rome determined that the disk contained data but were unable to penetrate its sophisticated security firewall. Eventually, after much internal debate, it was decided to approach the Israelis for help.

And so it was that Shimon Pazner received his summons to the headquarters of the Servizio per le Informazioni e la Sicurezza Democratica, Italy’s Intelligence and Democratic Security Service. He arrived a few minutes after ten in the evening and was shown immediately into the office of the deputy chief, a man named Martino Bellano. They were a mismatched pair: Bellano, tall and lean and dressed as though he had just stepped off the pages of an Italian fashion magazine; Pazner, short and muscular with hair like steel wool and a crumpled sports jacket. “A pile of yesterday’s laundry” is how Bellano would describe Pazner after the encounter, and in the aftermath of the affair, when it became clear that Pazner had behaved less than forthrightly, Bellano routinely referred to the Israeli as “that kosher shylock in a borrowed blazer.”

On that first evening, however, Bellano could not have been more solicitous of his visitor. Pazner was not the type to elicit sympathy from strangers, but as he was shown into Bellano’s office, his eyes were heavy with exhaustion and a profound case of survivor’s guilt. Bellano spent several moments expressing his “profound grief” over the bombing before getting round to the reason for Pazner’s late-night summons: the computer disk. He placed it ceremoniously on the desktop and slid it toward Pazner with the tip of a manicured forefinger. Pazner accepted it calmly, though later he would confess to Shamron that his heart was beating a chaotic rhythm against his breastbone.

“We’ve been unable to pick the lock,” Bellano said. “Perhaps you’ll have a bit more luck.”

“We’ll do our best,” replied Pazner modestly.

“Of course, you’ll share with us any material you happen to find.”

“It goes without saying,” said Pazner as the disk disappeared into his coat pocket.

Another ten minutes would elapse before Bellano saw fit to conclude the meeting. Pazner remained stoically in his seat, gripping the arms of his chair like a man in the throes of a nicotine fit. Those who witnessed his departure down the grandiose main corridor took note of his unhurried pace. Only when he was outside, descending the front steps, was there any hint of urgency in his stride.

Within hours of the attack, a team of Israeli bomb specialists, regrettably well-experienced in their trade, had arrived in Rome to begin the task of sifting the wreckage for evidence of the bomb’s composition and origin. As luck would have it, the military charter that had borne them from Tel Aviv was still on the apron at Fiumicino. Pazner, with Shamron’s approval, commandeered the plane to take him back to Tel Aviv. He arrived a few minutes after sunrise and walked directly into the arms of an Office greeting party. They headed immediately to King Saul Boulevard, driving at great haste but with no recklessness, for the cargo was too precious to risk on that most dangerous element of Israeli life: its roadways. By eight that morning, the computer disk was the target of a coordinated assault by the best minds of the service’s Technical division, and by nine the security barriers had been successfully breached. Ari Shamron would later boast that the Office computer geniuses cracked the code in the span of an average Italian coffee break. Decryption of the material took another hour, and by ten a printout of the disk’s contents was sitting on Lev’s immaculate desk. The material remained there for only a few moments, because Lev immediately tossed it into a secure briefcase and headed to Kaplan Street in Jerusalem to brief the prime minister. Shamron, of course, was at his master’s side.

“Someone needs to bring him in,” said Lev. He spoke with the enthusiasm of a man offering his own eulogy. Perhaps, thought Shamron, that was precisely how he felt, for he viewed the man in question as a rival, and Lev’s preferred method of dealing with rivals, real or potential, was exile. “Pazner is heading back to Italy tonight. Let him take along a team from Extraction.”

Shamron shook his head. “He’s mine. I’ll bring him home.” He paused. “Besides, Pazner has something more important to do at the moment.”

“What’s that?”

“Telling the Italians we couldn’t break the lock on that disk, of course.”

Lev made a habit of never being the first to leave the room, and so it was with great reluctance that he uncoiled himself from his chair and moved toward the exit. Shamron looked up and saw that the prime minister’s eyes were on him.

“He’ll have to stay here until this blows over,” the prime minister said.

“Yes, he will,” agreed Shamron.

“Perhaps we should find something for him to do to help pass the time.”

Shamron nodded once, and it was done.

Read More Show Less

First Chapter

Prince of Fire


By Daniel Silva

Putnam Adult

ISBN: 0-399-15243-1


Chapter One

THERE HAD BEEN WARNING SIGNS-THE SHABBAT bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that left eighty-seven people dead; the bombing of an Istanbul synagogue, precisely one year later, that killed another twenty-eight-but Rome would be his coming-out party, and Rome would be the place where he left his calling card.

Afterward, within the corridors and executive suites of Israel's vaunted intelligence service, there was considerable and sometimes belligerent debate over the time and place of the conspiracy's genesis. Lev Ahroni, the ever-cautious director of the service, would claim that the plot was hatched not long after the Israeli army knocked down Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah and stole his secret files. Ari Shamron, the legendary Israeli master spy, would find this almost laughable, though Shamron often disagreed with Lev simply as a matter of sport. Only Shamron, who had fought with the Palmach during the War of Independence and who tended to view the conflict as a continuum, understood intuitively that the outrage in Rome had been inspired by deeds dating back more than a half century. Eventually, evidence would prove both Lev and Shamron correct. In the meantime, in order to achieve peaceful working conditions, they agreed on a new starting point: the day a certain Monsieur Jean-Luc arrived in the hills of Lazio and settled himself in a rather handsome eighteenth-century villa on the shore of Lake Bracciano.

As for the exact date and time of his arrival, there was no doubt. The owner of the villa, a dubious Belgian aristocrat called Monsieur Laval, said the tenant appeared at two-thirty in the afternoon on the final Friday of March. The courteous but intense young Israeli who called on Monsieur Laval at his home in Brussels wondered how it was possible to recall the date so clearly. The Belgian produced his lavish leather-bound personal calendar and pointed to the date in question. There, penciled on the line designated for 2:30 P.M., were the words: Meet M. Jean-Luc at Bracciano villa.

"Why did you write Bracciano villa instead of just villa?" asked the Israeli visitor, his pen hovering over his open notebook.

"To differentiate it from our St. Tropez villa, our Portuguese villa, and the chalet we own in the Swiss Alps."

"I see," said the Israeli, though the Belgian found that his visitor's tone lacked the humility adopted by most civil servants when confronted by men of great wealth.

And what else did Monsieur Laval remember of the man who rented his villa? That he was punctual, intelligent, and extremely well-mannered. That he was strikingly good-looking, that his scent was noticeable but not obtrusive, that his clothing was expensive but restrained. That he drove a Mercedes car and had two large suitcases with gold buckles and a famous label. That he paid the entire monthlong lease in advance and in cash, which Monsieur Laval explained was not unusual in that part of Italy. That he was a good listener who didn't need to be told things twice. That he spoke French with the accent of a Parisian from a well-heeled arrondissement. That he seemed like a man who could handle himself well in a fight and who treated his women well. "He was of noble birth," Laval concluded, with the certainty of one who knows of what he speaks. "He comes from a good bloodline. Write that in your little book."

Slowly, additional details would emerge about the man called Jean-Luc, though none conflicted with Monsieur Laval's flattering portrait. He hired no cleaning woman and demanded the gardener arrive punctually at nine o'clock and leave by ten. He shopped in nearby market squares and attended Mass in the medieval lakeside village of Anguillara. He spent much time touring the Roman ruins of Lazio and seemed particularly intrigued by the ancient necropolis at Cerveteri.

Sometime in the middle of March-the date could never be reliably established-he vanished. Even Monsieur Laval could not be certain of the departure date, because he was informed after the fact by a woman in Paris who claimed to be the gentleman's personal assistant. Though two weeks remained on the lease, the handsome tenant did not embarrass himself, or Monsieur Laval, by asking for a refund. Later that spring, when Monsieur Laval visited the villa, he was surprised to discover, in a crystal bowl on the dining room sideboard, a brief thank-you note, typewritten, along with a hundred euros to pay for broken wineglasses. A thorough search of the villa's stemware collection, however, revealed nothing was missing. When Monsieur Laval tried to call Jean-Luc's girl in Paris to return the money, he found that her telephone line had been disconnected.

ON THE FRINGES of the Borghese gardens there are elegant boulevards and quiet leafy side streets that bear little resemblance to the scruffy, tourist-trodden thoroughfares of the city center. They are avenues of diplomacy and money, where traffic moves at a nearly reasonable speed and where the blare of car horns sounds like a rebellion in distant lands. One such street is a cul-de-sac. It falls away at a gentle pitch and bends to the right. For many hours each day, it is in shadow, a consequence of the towering stone pine and eucalyptus that loom over the villas. The narrow sidewalk is broken by tree roots and perpetually covered by pine needles and dead leaves. At the end of the street is a diplomatic compound, more heavily fortified than most in Rome.

Survivors and witnesses would recall the perfection of that late-winter morning: bright and clear, cold enough in the shadows to bring on a shiver, warm enough in the sun to unbutton a wool coat and dream of an alfresco lunch. The fact it was also a Friday served only to heighten the leisurely atmosphere. In diplomatic Rome, it was a morning to dawdle over a cappuccino and cornetto, to take stock of one's circumstances and ponder one's mortality. Procrastination was the order of the day. Many mundane meetings were canceled. Much routine paperwork was put off till Monday.

On the little cul-de-sac near the Borghese gardens there were no outward signs of the catastrophe to come. The Italian police and security agents guarding the perimeter fortifications chatted lazily in the patches of brilliant sunshine. Like most diplomatic missions in Rome, it officially contained two embassies, one dealing with the Italian government, the second with the Vatican. Both embassies opened for business at their appointed times. Both ambassadors were in their offices.

At ten-fifteen a tubby Jesuit waddled down the hill, a leather satchel in his hand. Inside was a diplomatic démarche from the Vatican Secretariat of State, condemning the Israeli army's recent incursion into Bethlehem. The courier deposited the document with an embassy clerk and puffed his way back up the hill. Afterward, the text would be made public, and its sharp language would prove a temporary embarrassment to the men of the Vatican. The courier's timing would prove providential. Had he arrived five minutes later, he would have been vaporized, along with the original text of the démarche.

Not so fortunate were the members of an Italian television crew who had come to interview the ambassador on the current state of affairs in the Middle East. Or the delegation of local Jewish crusaders who had come to secure the ambassador's public condemnation of a neo-Nazi conference scheduled for the following week in Verona. Or the Italian couple, sickened by the new rise of European anti-Semitism, who were about to inquire about the possibility of emigrating to Israel. Fourteen in all, they were standing in a tight cluster at the business entrance, waiting to be body-searched by the embassy's short-haired security toughs, when the white freight truck made a right turn into the cul-de-sac and began its death run toward the compound.

Most heard the truck before they saw it. The convulsive roar of its diesel engine was a violent intrusion on the otherwise still morning. It was impossible to ignore. The Italian security men paused in mid-conversation and looked up, as did the group of fourteen strangers gathered outside the entrance of the embassy. The tubby Jesuit, who was waiting for a bus at the opposite end of the street, lifted his round head from his copy of L'Osservatore Romano and searched for the source of the commotion.

The gentle slope of the street helped the truck gather speed at an astonishing rate. As it rounded the bend, the massive load in its cargo container pushed the truck heavily onto two wheels. For an instant it seemed it might topple. Then somehow it righted itself and began the final straight-line plunge toward the compound.

The driver was briefly visible through the windshield. He was young and clean-shaven. His eyes were wide, his mouth agape. He seemed to be standing atop the gas pedal, and he seemed to be shouting at himself. For some reason the wipers were on.

The Italian security forces reacted immediately. Several took cover behind the reinforced concrete barriers. Others dived for the protection of the steel-and-glass guard posts. Two officers could be seen pouring automatic fire toward the marauding truck. Sparks exploded on the grille, and the windshield shattered, but the truck continued unhindered, gathering speed until the point of impact. Afterward, the government of Israel would commend the heroism shown by the Italian security services that morning. It would be noted that none fled their positions, though if they had, their fate would have been precisely the same.

The explosion could be heard from St. Peter's Square to the Piazza di Spagna to the Janiculum Hill. Those on the upper floors of buildings were treated to the remarkable sight of a red-and-orange fireball rising over the northern end of the Villa Borghese, followed quickly by a pitch-black mushroom cloud of smoke. Windows a mile from the blast point were shattered by the thunderclap of the shock wave, including the stained-glass windows in a nearby church. Plane trees were stripped of their leaves. Birds died in mid-flight. Geologists at a seismic monitoring station first feared that Rome had been shaken by a moderate earthquake.

None of the Italian security men survived the initial blast. Nor did any of the fourteen visitors waiting to be admitted to the mission, or the embassy personnel who happened to be working in offices closest to the spot where the truck exploded.

Ultimately, though, it was the second vehicle that inflicted the most loss of life. The Vatican courier, who had been knocked to the ground by the force of the blast, saw the car turn into the cul-de-sac at high speed. Because it was a Lancia sedan, and because it was carrying four men and traveling at a high rate of speed, he assumed it was a police vehicle responding to the bombing. The priest got to his feet and started toward the scene through the dense black smoke, hoping to be of assistance to the wounded and the dead alike. Instead he saw a scene from a nightmare. The doors of the Lancia opened simultaneously, and the four men he assumed to be police officers began firing into the compound. Survivors who staggered from the burning wreckage of the embassy were mercilessly cut down.

The four gunmen ceased firing at precisely the same time, then clambered back into the Lancia. As they sped away from the burning compound, one of the terrorists aimed his automatic weapon at the Jesuit. The priest made the sign of the cross and prepared himself to die. The terrorist just smiled and disappeared behind a curtain of smoke.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Prince of Fire by Daniel Silva Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 109 )
Rating Distribution

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(59)

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(13)

2 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 109 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2008

    A reviewer

    I picked up this novel not realizing it was one in a long series. It didn't matter because it provided enough background for me to get the idea of Gabriel's past assignments. Since this read, I've read two more in the Gabriel Allon series. The books are all well-written. The characters are well-developed described with enough detail to paint a picture and not too much to bore the reader. The story kept me interested and turning the pages. I highly recommend this book as an exciting novel and current to the times.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Great thriller

    The bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, the bombing of an Istanbul synagogue and the suicide bombing of the Israeli embassy in Rome are the work of one mastermind, a terrorist trained by Yassar Arafat. After the bombing in Rome, the Israelis were able to trace one of the perpetrators to his home and there they found the dossier of Gabriel Allon currently working as an art restorer in Rome.......................... Gabriel used to work for covert organization known as the Office but when his son died and his wife was physically and mentally damaged he quit the organization although he does freelance work for them at times. With his cover blown, Gabriel is forced to return to Israel and the Office where he tracks the mastermind responsible for the murders of hundreds of Jews; he intends to spill as much blood as he can in an act of revenge. When it is discovered that the terrorist intends to blow up the French subway station, Gabriel moves to stop him but that is before he learns that they kidnapped has wife and made him look to the world like a man who was responsible for the bombings.................... This is the fifth Gabriel Allon book and it is Daniel Silva¿s best work to date. Gabriel finally comes home and returns to the work he gave up as penance for what happened to his wife and child. The war between two brilliant spies is terrific as nobody is certain at what point Gabriel is the cat or the mouse. Thriller readers are going to love PRINCE OF FIRE................ Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2014

    Thunderstorm

    Does the rest and goes back to camp (this is taking forever!)

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  • Posted August 2, 2014

    Outstanding -- in print as well as audio books.

    Gabriel Allon always does a fine job in the mystery world. While traveling we often use audio books with Daniel Silva. An outstanding travel companion.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2014

    Another thriller...highly recommend!

    Daniel Silva is a master storyteller, and I love the character of Gabriel Allon! I have read every book that he has written. His side job of art restorer adds to the interest of the book. If you have never read Daniel Silva you are in for a treat. The language and vocabulary are a step above most mysteries.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2011

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 25, 2011

    Good read. Go for it.

    Totally enjoy Daniel Silvas series.

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  • Posted April 17, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Silva does not disappoint

    Keep'em coming Daniel. Never has revenge felt so good!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 16, 2010

    Great Read, hard to put down.

    Another in the great series of Gabriel Allon stories.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 11, 2010

    An Ultimate Thriller

    Fast paced, a page turner. Silva is a master at creating great characters and suspensful plots. He is the best among current authors of this genre.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 23, 2009

    A wonderful read for the international thrill reader

    I have enjoyed reading all of Daniel Silva's books. For those who are just beginning, I recommend starting at the beginning of the series. While each book is a stand alone, it is much more interesting to follow the story and the characters from the start.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2007

    Interesting and topical

    This novel was good, interesting to read but not great and not a page turner. One character's almost remarkable recovery was too much. Having said all that though, I also have to say that this book could be nonfiction in light of the current world situation. Read it. Enjoy it. Forget about it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2007

    A reviewer

    When I got done reading this book I turned on the TV. 250 satellite channels made me wish I hadn't finished the book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2006

    Time to retire Gabriel Allon

    I have read all of Daniel Silva's books and he's terrific - writing in great detail and clearly does lots of research. However this is one episode too far for the character Gabriel Allon. There is nothing new in this story and Mr Silva's stories have become too predictable. There is always a great danger in having one repetitive character as a writer. For starters the reader knows that character will be alive and well for the next book. Mr Silva is far too talented as illustrated by his earlier books to become typecast and predictable. So time to move on and I wouldn't buy any more books featuring Gabriel Allon - besides anything else Gabriel is too old to be a one man James Bond.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2006

    The Impossible Is Done

    It is difficult to near impossible to find an author like Daniel Silva who has the ability to develop his characters and their surroundings to make the reader feel like they are a part of the story. The author has a unique talent in making his characters, plot and story line come to life. I have read all of Daniel Silva's books that pertain to the exploits of Gabriel Allon Kill Artist, the English Assassin, The Confessor, A Death In Vienna, and the Prince Of Fire. I would recommend reading his novels in that order. I hope he doesn't kill off his main character. This series could go on indifinitely as long as Daniel Silva's creativity holds out. Recently I saw the movie, 'Munich' by Stephen Speilberg. The main character in the movie could have been Gabriel Allon, Daniel Silva's main character.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2005

    History and Mystery

    The searching quality of the book is reflective of both the main character and his 'people.' JUSTICE triumphs over revenge. The heart and soul of a continuing struggle and the constant need to prevent more human suffering is what compellingly drives this excellently crafted book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2005

    Same O'Same O

    Disappointed. More and more of the writers in this genre are beating a horse to death. This book is repitious of Gabriel Allon's ventures and it is time to kill him off. All of the books are the same.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2005

    OUTSTANDING!!!

    This is Silva's best book yet! Absolutely gripping, real characters, and stunning tension! This is what a thriller should be. John Le Carre move over! Any one who loves smart, well-written, layered stories should read this. Unlike most books with lame characters and all the usual suspects, Silva's are original, believeable and exciting. They are history lessons that you cant put down. Read them in order, or read them backwards, they are all great, but this one is the best.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2005

    And then again

    I was impressed by the amount of history in the book. Although I enjoyed the book I believe that some of the analyses in the book are very simplyistic and not well thought out. The last paragraph of the book would suggest that problems for both sides of this equation would have gone away had the arabs accepted the division of their country. I would believe that even if that had happened the results would be the same only the arabs would have become second class citizens in their own country same as american indians. Which was better to fight and die or to roll over and die with disgust for yourself.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2005

    major dissapointment

    What a letdown after totally enjoying the books in the Allon series. Slow, turget plot with no sense of place that always highlited the Silva series. Also, far too much invovement in the personalities; most charectors in mystery writting are stock figures and this attempt at 'psychological insight' does no service to his readers. Silva should remember that the major reason people read this genre is for movement and plot twists that pull you in. Sorry, but no reccomendation. Read the latest Peter Robinson mystery instead.

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