The Defector

Title:                      The Defector

Author:                  Daniel Silva

Silva, Daniel (2009). The Defector. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons

LCCN:    2009017613

PS3619.I5443 D44 2009

LC Subjects

Date Posted:      December 4, 2017

Reviewed by Jerry Harkavy[1] Associated Press Aug 30, 2009

Gabriel Allon’s big mistake at the close of Daniel Silva’s 2008 spy thriller, Moscow Rules, was to spare the life of Ivan Kharkov, the ruthless Russian oligarch and arms supplier to al-Qaida.

But it was an astute decision for Silva, one that set the stage for another confrontation between the two mortal enemies and demonstrates anew that the collapse of the Soviet Union doesn’t leave authors short of material to craft suspense-filled conflicts between Russia and the West.

The Defector is the perfect book for fans of well-crafted thrillers, the kind of page-turner that captures the reader from the opening chapter and doesn’t let go.

It’s Silva’s 12th novel and the ninth to showcase the brilliance and daring of Allon, the noted art restorer who occasionally takes an assignment from the Office, Israel’s secret warfare agency modeled after the Mossad.

Allon gets his marching orders while on an extended honeymoon at an Italian villa, where he also is restoring a 17th-century altarpiece for the Vatican. He learns that Col. Grigori Bulganov, the Russian intelligence officer who saved his life and then defected to the West, has gone missing and faces the prospect of execution and burial in an unmarked grave.

The stakes grow higher when Kharkov’s thugs kidnap Allon’s wife, Chiara, herself an Israeli Special Ops agent, from the villa in Umbria, where her two security guards are found dead.

Allon’s assignment takes him at warp speed to the Russian exile community in London, a little-known bank in Switzerland and a villa on Italy’s Lake Como to which he lures Bulganov’s wife to obtain details of her husband’s abduction.

The globe-trotting continues with a visit to a lodge in New York’s Adirondacks that provides sanctuary for Kharkov’s wife and children, then to a dacha in a snowbound birch forest in Russia that offers haunting testimony to Stalin’s butchery 70 years earlier.

Allon and his team get help from the Israelis’ well-placed contacts in Britain’s MI5, which at first suspected that Bulganov was a double agent who defected yet again, this time back to Russia, and in the CIA, which plays a key role in the daring rescue.

As the Cold War becomes a distant memory, spy novels have been forced to adapt.

Silva draws from undisputed master John Le Carré, but without the British author’s projection of moral ambiguity. Silva’s readers can always tell the good guys from the bad.

There’s also a smidgen of James Bond.

Silva, a former wire service correspondent and CNN producer who’s known for the research that informs his novels, spent some time in Russia while working on Moscow Rules. That book and its sequel indicate that the country has a way to go to come to terms with its KGB past.


Review by Kate Ayers[2]

“For Gabriel Allon—a child of Holocaust survivors, a gifted artist and restorer, an assassin and spy—life had been anything but normal.”

How could life possibly be normal, when he possesses the skills of 20 men and the courage to use them? He started young and, from the outset, has fought for what he believes in, winning battles against crushing odds. And he has lost much of what he loved.

Now, months after Gabriel’s daring feats in Moscow Rules[3], in which he rescued the world from a terrifying future, he and his team deserve a well-earned respite. So Gabriel retreats to the rented villa in Umbria, picking up the paint brush once again to continue his art restoration, and taking time to enjoy his wife, Chiara, an Italian woman of striking beauty. She is also a deadly agent for the same Israeli organization Gabriel works for, referred to as simply the Office. Their last harrowing assignment has them both thinking of retirement. Maybe they could settle in, start a family and try to capture a life that at least borders on normal.

Amid such pleasant dreams comes news that Russian defector Grigori Bulganov has vanished from his safe house in London. Grigori saved Gabriel’s life as they fled Russia together. There has been speculation that he returned to his homeland, but Gabriel cannot believe Grigori would go back—at least not voluntarily. That means that he has been snatched or coerced somehow.

The Office gives Gabriel strict orders to stay out of it, but Gabriel owes Grigori. Big time. If not for Grigori, Gabriel might never have been reunited with Chiara, and the world might be a very different place. As always, Gabriel plays by his own rules, following an intuition so keen it could be said he has a sixth sense. He starts with a simple plan, one that should yield maximum benefit for minimum risk.

Grigori’s disappearance starts to look like a form of revenge. He should have kept a low profile, but his craving for attention got the better of him. And he got attention, only not the kind of attention he wanted. Gabriel’s information points him toward Ivan Kharkov, a more than formidable foe. The big problem is that Kharkov is in Russia, and Russia is forbidden ground for Gabriel. Of course, that never stopped him before, nor will it now. It’s all a matter of time. But time is running out.

“Always the waiting…Waiting for a plane or a train. Waiting for a source. Waiting for the Sun to rise after a night of killing. And waiting for Ivan Kharkov…”

There is no question that Gabriel will go after him. But will he succeed? Kharkov is not your average bad guy. This fellow is rich, cunning, well connected, spiteful, malicious, plain nasty, and downright mean. And it’s no surprise that he doesn’t take well to being crossed. The tiniest slight sends him into a dangerous, sometimes fatal, rage. Gabriel may have to retire after this, if he survives. It’s touch and go. Last assignment? Daniel Silva’s fans hope not.

The Defector blends the worst of Russia’s past with the best of her future. Put your hopes on the women. And sidestep the politicians. Loyal citizens, particularly those with extraordinary abilities and tenacity, will get things done. Especially if they’re anything like Gabriel Allon. But beware; this may be his toughest case yet. It certainly is his most thrilling.

[1] Jerry Harkavy Associated Press, “Book Review: Daniel Silva’s ‘Defector’ is well-crafted thriller,” Billings Gazette (Aug 30, 2009), downloaded January 6, 2017

[2] Kate Ayers at Book Reporter, accessed December 3, 2017 at

[3] Silva, Daniel (2008). Moscow Rules. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons


The Secret Servant

Title:                      The Secret Servant

Author:                 Daniel Silva

Silva, Daniel (2007). The Secret Servant. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

LCCN:    2007017548

PS3619.I5443 S43 2007

LC Subjects


  • Sequel to: The Messenger[1].

Date Posted:      October 17, 2017

Review by AmyVirshup[2]

Daniel Silva brings back the Israeli secret agent and art restorer Gabriel Allon for his seventh appearance. In this novel, Gabriel is sent to Amsterdam to go through the files of a Dutch professor and secret asset of the Office (as the Israeli spy forces are called) who has been murdered. “Just try not to kill anyone,” a fellow agent admonishes him at the start of the mission. “Dead bodies have a way of spoiling an otherwise uneventful trip.” But Gabriel can’t seem to help himself: He stumbles onto a terrorist cell planning an attack on London, and the dead bodies quickly start to pile up. To keep Elizabeth Halton, the beautiful young daughter of the United States ambassador to the Court of St. James’s, from becoming one of the stack, Gabriel and his team are soon giving chase across northern Europe. Mr. Silva once covered the Middle East for United Press International, and between shootings and explosions he traces the roots of terror back to the slums and prisons of Egypt.

[1] Silva, Daniel (2006). The Messenger. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

[2] Amy Virshup, “Books: Newly Released,” New York Times (July 19, 2007), accessed at

Prince of Fire

Title:                      Prince of Fire

Author:                  Daniel Silva

Silva, Daniel (2005). Prince of Fire. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

LCCN:    2004060066

PS3619.I5443 P75 2005

LC Subjects

Date Posted:      October 16, 2017

Reviewed by Anna Dogole[1]

After a horrific suicide bombing at the Israeli Embassy in Rome, the famed art restorer, Gabriel Allon, is called out of retirement and is reenlisted in the Israeli Secret Service. For years Allon had served the Israelis as a free-lance spy and assassin, but he thought he’d put that part of his life behind him. During the investigation of the bombing, it became apparent that his enemies had discovered his whereabouts and had been tracking his movements, as well as those of his fiancée, Chiara Zolli, the daughter of the Chief Rabbi of Venice. With his professional dossier exposed, it is no longer safe for him to continue life “in the open” and he is recalled to Israel and set to work tracking down the terrorists who had mastermind the Rome bombing.

His return to the world of espionage is heart-wrenching for Allon. Art restoration was his passion and he was one of the best restorers in the world. Returning to the secret service would mean that this aspect of his life was most likely dead forever. In addition, he had been planning on marrying Zolli, once he divorced his wife. Like leaving his work as a restorer, leaving his wife is harder than most would expect. His wife had been severely burned and disfigured in a car bombing that also claimed the life of their son. The murder of her son caused her to have a mental breakdown, and for the last thirteen years she has been living in a psychiatric hospital. Although she doesn’t recognize Allon, or even seem aware of her surroundings, Allon feels it only right to tell her that he has fallen in love with another and that he wants to divorce her so he can remarry. This is one task, however, that he might not be able to accomplish. Allon still loves Leah, and he is still plagued by guilt over the bombing.

The main focus of this story is Allon and his team’s efforts to track down Khaled al-Khalifa, a terrorist who has made it his life’s work to seek revenge for ancient wrongs. Khaled has been living for years under the guise of Paul Martineau and working as an archaeologist. Periodically, he takes time off from his excavations to carry out deadly acts of vengeance to commemorate what he sees as past wrongs. As Allon hunts Khaled, Khaled is also hunting Allon, and at times it is hard to tell just who is the mouse and who is the cat in this deadly hunt.

Prince of Fire is Daniel Silva’s fifth novel featuring Gabriel Allon, and it follows A Death in Vienna[2]. Within the pages of this book, Silva offers the reader a well-plotted and suspenseful spy thriller that has an unexpected and hair-raising ending. The characters are well defined, Allon is fantastic as the tortured hero, and the story is believable. Intertwined with the main story line, Silva also examines the reasons behind the long-standing animosities between the Israelis and the Palestinians. He also looks at the role that Yasir Arafat has had in keeping these long standing angers smoldering—for his own political objectives. Prince of Fire is another fine addition to the Gabriel Allon series, and I highly recommend it. It is a riveting spy thriller, and while I recommend that your read the Allon books in order, this book can be read independently of the other books in the series.

[1] Anne Doigole, in The Jewish Eyes. Accessed at

[2] Silva, Daniel (2004). A Death in Vienna. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

The Black Widow

Title:                      The Black Widow

Author:                 Daniel Silva

Silva, Daniel (2016). The Black Widow. New York, NY: Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers

OCLC:    973883288

PS3619.I5443 B35 2016



Gabriel Allon, the art restorer, spy, and assassin, is poised to become the chief of Israel’s secret intelligence service. But on the eve of his promotion, events conspire to lure him into the field for one final operation. ISIS has detonated a massive bomb in the Marais district of Paris, and a desperate French government wants Gabriel to eliminate the man responsible before he can strike again. They call him Saladin, a terrorist mastermind whose ambition is as grandiose as his nom de guerre, a man so elusive that even his nationality is not known. Shielded by sophisticated encryption software, his network communicates in total secrecy, leaving the West blind to his planning — and leaving Gabriel no choice but to insert an agent into the most dangerous terror group the world has ever known. She is an extraordinary young doctor, as brave as she is beautiful. At Gabriel’s behest, she will pose as an ISIS recruit in waiting, a ticking time bomb — a black widow out for blood.

Date Posted:      May 9, 2017

Reviewed in The Intelligencer[1]

Another international thriller that finds Gabriel Allon, an art restorer, spy, and assassin, poised to become the chief of Israel’s secret intelligence service, suddenly grappling with an ISIS mastermind. On the eve of his promotion, events conspire to lure him into the field for one final operation. ISIS has detonated a massive bomb in the Marais district of Paris, and a desperate French government wants Gabriel to eliminate the man responsible before he can strike again.

[1] The Intelligencer (22, 2, Fall 2016, p. 142 ).

The English Teacher

Title:                      The English Teacher

Author:                 Yiftach Reicher Atir;

Reicher Atir, Yiftach (2016). The English Teacher: A Novel. New York: Penguin Books

LCCN:    2015049266

PJ5055.39.E42 M6713 2016


  • “For readers of John Le Carre and viewers of Homeland, a slow-burning psychological spy-thriller by a former brigadier general of intelligence in the Israeli army. After attending her father’s funeral, former Mossad agent Rachel Goldschmitt empties her bank account and disappears. But when she makes a cryptic phone call to her former handler, Ehud, the Mossad sends him to track her down. Finding no leads, he must retrace her career as a spy to figure out why she abandoned Mossad before she can do any damage to Israel. But he soon discovers that after living under cover for so long, an agent’s assumed identity and her real one can blur, catching loyalty, love, and truth between them. In the midst of a high-risk, high-stakes investigation, Ehud begins to question whether he ever knew his agent at all. In The English Teacher, Yiftach R. Atir drew on his own experience in intelligence to weave a psychologically nuanced thriller that explores the pressures of living under an assumed identity for months at a time”.– Provided by publisher.


Date Posted:      May 8, 2017

Reviewed in The Intelligencer[1]

After attending her father’s funeral, former Mossad agent Rachel Goldschmitt empties her bank account and disappears. But when she makes a cryptic phone call to her former handler, Ehud, the Mossad sends him to track her down. Finding no leads, he must retrace her career as a spy to figure out why she abandoned Mossad before she can do any damage to Israel. But he soon discovers that after living under cover for so long, an agent’s assumed identity and her real one can blur, catching loyalty, love, and truth between them. In the midst of the investigation, Ehud begins to question whether he ever knew his agent at all.

[1] The Intelligencer (22, 2, Fall 2016, p. 142 ).

The Messenger

Title:                      The Messenger

Author:                Daniel Silva

Silva, Daniel (2006). The Messenger. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

LCCN:    2006367534

PS3619.I5443 M47 2006


Date Updated:  October 17, 2017

Miscelleanous reviews

Israeli secret agent Gabriel Allon would rather just restore fine art, but he can’t seem to retire from espionage. In Prince of Fire (2005)[1], Allon returned to work when a Palestinian bombed the Israeli embassy in Rome. This time, Allon suspects that Saudi terrorists are targeting the Vatican. When they damage St. Peter’s Basilica, murder innocent bystanders, and almost kill the Pope, Allon, sanctioned by the U.S. and Israel, becomes enmeshed in a deadly game. He must hunt down an al-Qaeda mastermind and the Saudi billionaire who finances terrorism, penetrate the organization, assassinate its leaders, and save a beautiful American art expert from certain death.

Baltimore Sun 4 of 5 Stars

“Being a spy is already a glamorous enough occupation in the fictional realm, but Gabriel Allon … has extra cachet because of his cover as one of the world’s leading art restoration experts. … How it’s resolved is what makes The Messenger so entertaining, much in part to Allon’s ingenuity and Silva’s ability to spin a spider web of a plot.” Sarah Weinman

Denver Post 4 of 5 Stars

“Daniel Silva reaches the pinnacle of world-class spy thriller writing with his most recent novel. … The characters have nuance and depth, which affects their actions and makes them more human even as they tackle an inhuman goal.” Leslie Doran

Orlando Sentinel 4 of 5 Stars

“For Silva fans, getting there is always half the fun. … [He] drives home his thesis that Saudi money keeps global terrorism afloat while moving the action from the Mideast to Europe and Washington and the Caribbean.” Ann Hellmuth

Philadelphia Inquirer 4 of 5 Stars

“One of the things that is most remarkable about Silva’s books is that, after reading them, you’ve probably learned something, and maybe even had your eyes opened a little wider, but you’re never quite sure what Silva himself believes. … But by allowing his intelligent, insightful characters to argue it out, it’s hard for us not to be moved in one direction or another.” David J. Montgomery

USA Today 4 of 5 Stars

“Readers who are looking for serious novels that reflect the growing threat of global terrorism need look no further . … The Messenger’s blood-spattered, true-to-life backdrop pumps up this thrill ride of a story, but its underlying messages about fundamentalism, revenge, oil dependency and cultural differences are what will keep you awake at night.” Robin Cook

Washington Post 3.5 of 5 Stars

“It is written in broad strokes, with villains more loathsome, terrorist attacks more spectacular, and a plot more melodramatic than he’s given us in the past. … It’s a good read, but I kept finding annoying flaws in the telling.” Patrick Anderson

Critical Summary

The five previous spy thrillers featuring Gabriel Allon addressed topics including the Munich Olympics massacre, Yasir Arafat, and the Vatican. The Messenger, about global terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, resounded just as loudly with critics. Fortunately, Daniel Silva has also written an ingenious, thrilling, and entertaining book with complex characters and settings, from London and Jerusalem to Rome, that serve the plot well. While one critic cited Silva’s bias toward Israel, the majority felt that the author created characters with different perspectives and left readers to form their own opinions. In the end, they agreed that “Gabriel Allon remains one of the most intriguing heroes of any thriller series” (Philadelphia Inquirer).

[1] Silva, Daniel (2005). Prince of Fire. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons


The Rembrandt Affair

Title:                      The Rembrandt Affair

Author:                Daniel Silva

Silva, Daniel (2010). The Rembrandt Affair. New York : G.P. Putnam’s Sons

LCCN:    2010017388

PS3619.I5443 R46 2010


Date Posted:      January 8, 2017

Reviewed by Kate Ayers[1] on January 23, 2011

“In the aftermath of the affair, all those involved agreed that no quest for a stolen masterpiece had ever begun in quite the same way.”

Since his last assignment, Israeli spy–make that ex-spy–Gabriel Allon has retreated to a bucolic retirement on a stretch of peaceful coast in England. But his retirement is interrupted by an old acquaintance, art dealer Julian Isherwood. Julian owns a fashionable gallery in London that those in the art world describe as never boring, and that’s in his worst times. Now Julian has a problem, a big and definitely unboring problem. It seems that a newly discovered Rembrandt entrusted to him for restoration has gone missing, leaving him holding the bag for $45 million.

Naturally, at first, Gabriel resists Julian’s impassioned pleas for help, but he can’t do so for long. While retirement has so far suited Gabriel and his beautiful wife, ex-agent Chiara, the temptation to get back in the game, even for a brief time, is simply too much. Besides, he reasons, this should be a straightforward task, one that need not involve the Office, nor one that should take a whole lot of effort on his part.

However, this particular Rembrandt hides a deadly secret, and Gabriel soon finds out that there are people willing to kill to keep that secret safe. For Gabriel, the introduction of danger into the mix only adds intrigue, for it is something that he always handles extremely well. But when he and Chiara follow a lead to Buenos Aires and barely escape with their lives, they decide it is time to enlist the aid of their fellow agents. What they have uncovered proves much bigger and carries much more widespread risk than anyone could have imagined. In fact, it is blockbuster.

The search for the painting alone would be quest enough for most people, but it quickly becomes obvious that the history surrounding this Rembrandt is explosive and has the potential to devastate some highly influential people. Its background encompasses Swiss banks, Holocaust survivors, philanthropists, even the Vatican. And what Gabriel and his team discover portends a terrifying future if something is not done to head off a disaster of immense proportions with worldwide implications.

With nonstop action bouncing from England to Amsterdam to South America and back, the pacing here is whirlwind. Gabriel and Chiara and, in fact, everyone involved will need a long respite once this affair is over. That is, if they survive it. Then, can Gabriel once again retire, this time forever? Let’s hope not.

The Rembrandt Affair is Daniel Silva’s best thriller to date, and that’s saying a lot, for all of the books in the Gabriel Allon series have been stellar. Silva has an uncanny handle on world politics and how they affect the global population, not to mention an entertaining forum for getting his audience to pay attention to current affairs. There couldn’t be a much more time-appropriate plot than this one, nor one that can so touch its readers’ hearts. This is definitely a novel not to be missed!

[1] Kate Ayers, on January 23, 2011, at BookReporter web site. Downloaded January 8, 2017

Moscow Rules

Title:                      Moscow Rules

Author:                Daniel Silva

Silva, Daniel (2008). Moscow Rules. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

LCCN:    2008018318

PS3619.I5443 M67 2008


Date Posted:      January 8, 2017

Review by Houston Press[1] (Sunday, July 6, 2008 at 6:46 a.m.)

A Russian journalist dies and once more Gabriel Allon, the mysterious Israeli agent/fine picture restorer, ends up back in Moscow, a place he loathes, a place where he almost died once.

Bestselling thriller writer Daniel Silva has gone to the new Moscow, one of sudden self-made millionaires working at the same level of intrigue as the old KGB. Allon has just gotten married to Chiara and is on his honeymoon in Italy, happily restoring a painting under an alias, when his employers call, asking for a favor. It seems a second Russian journalist wants to tell Allon and only Allon why the first journalist, his co-worker, was killed.

This meeting never takes place–the second journalist is killed right before Allon can get to him–and in short order, Allon has a full-fledged case on his hands. Rather than coming back the next night, Allon enters into an extended absence from the Old Master and his new wife.

Allon summons up an Israeli investigative team and he and his fellow agents eventually turn up the name of one Ivan Kharkov, a former KGB colonel. Kharkov has carried over his previous covert training into his new career as an international arms dealer, and one willing to sell to Al-Qaeda. To collect information on him, Allon must persuade Kharkov’s wife to betray her husband.

Moscow Rules refers to a list of rules to live by for spies in the former Soviet Union, the chief among them being: You are never completely alone. Silva’s latest is both fast-past thriller with all the appropriate twists and turns and a fascinating look at the inner workings of Russian society today.

[1] Houston Press (Sunday, July 6, 2008 at 6:46 a.m.), downloaded January 8, 2017