Posted by: Gregg | August 14, 2006

The Messenger – Daniel Silva

As I’ve stated before, I’m a huge fan of Daniel Silva’s spy novels featuring Gabriel Allon, an art restorer and former assassin with the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service. (If you’ve ever seen the Spielberg movie “Munich”, which is quite good, he’s essentially the Eric Bana character.) Silva’s an author who excels at writing about tradecraft, but is even better at describing characters and the intertwining relationships between them, so his books aren’t mere empty Tom Clancy clones: deaths have emotional resonance. You feel while reading Silva, which is nice when you’re reading about an assassin, I guess.

The Messenger deviates from formula by splitting the focus of the novel between Allon and a new recruit he grooms to place inside a circle around a Saudi Arabian prince who secretly finances terrorist acts. The recruit, Sarah, is inexperienced and has to learn to navigate the murky waters of the spy trade quickly. Stuff goes wrong, of course, and the plot sails along quickly. It’s an ideal beach read, a bit lighter than his past novels. This might be because I was on vacation, and was reading it in bits and pieces instead of going at it for long stretches of time.

Daniel Silva is a bit like Spike Lee in that his books have a bit of a political point to them – each of the Allon series deals with a different aspect of crimes against Jews – The Confessor, arguably his best novel, talks about the Vatican’s silence during and after the Holocaust. A Death in Vienna deals with how the European financial community profited off the looting of Jewish art and property during the Second World War. And so forth. Here, again, the point is how Saudis create and finance terrorism despite having close ties with the American government. Luckily, he doesn’t bludgeon us over the head with this – Silva is skillful in having the reader come to their own conclusions, with the real enemies lurking beyond the pages, untouchable. The Messenger is good stuff, if not completely up to Silva’s past writings.

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