The Confessor

Title:                      The Confessor

Author:                 Daniel Silva

Silva, Daniel (2003). The Confessor. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

LCCN:    2002031905


LC Subjects

Date Posted:      August 30, 2017


Another polished and entertaining thriller from the prolific Silva, this one tracking dark secrets in Vatican City.

To widely held suspicions that Pope Pius XII was complicit in the Holocaust, Silva adds a compelling premise: What if Pope John Paul’s successor, here the fictional Pope Paul VII, made information public proving that Pius XII and the Vatican colluded with the Nazis? (The author notes in a postscript that the Vatican Secret Archives, currently sealed off to historians, may house documents that verify the alleged collaboration.) A swirl of intrigue, pursuit, and assassination is set spinning in the wake of Paul VII’s threat. First, someone murders Professor Benjamin Stern in Munich. Investigators there blame neo-Nazis, but Israel’s secret intelligence agency thinks something more sinister is afoot. They send art restorer and hit man Gabriel Allon (The Kill Artist[2], 2000; The English Assassin[3], p. 15) to investigate. Moving from Germany to Italy and England (in a series of sharply observed scenes), Allon learns that Stern, at work on a book, had uncovered information about Pius XII’s trafficking with the Germans during WWII. Crux Vera, a brotherhood secretly operating within the Vatican, will kill to suppress these revelations. So when Crux Vera discovers that Allon is on their scent, they want him taken out and dispatch the Leopard, a professional assassin who finds that killing whets his appetite for kinky sex (“‘Politics . . . does make for strange bedfellows,’” Katrine, the Leopard’s partner, observes post-tryst). But when Allon evades the Leopard, Crux Vera targets the Pope himself, who is poised to address a convocation of Jews in Rome. A suspenseful assassination scene, replete with surprising reversals, caps the chase, with Allon and the Leopard emerging free to stalk and elude each other once again.

Familiar material, for sure, but powered by steady pacing, keen detail, and a strong, ironic finish.

[1] Kirkus, downloaded August 30, 2017

[2] Silva, Daniel (2000). The Kill Artist: A Novel New York : Random House

[3] Silva, Daniel (2002) The English Assassin. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

The Fallen Angel

Title:                      The Fallen Angel

Author:                Daniel Silva

Silva, Daniel (2012). The Fallen Angel. New York: Harper

LCCN:    2012025260

PS3619.I5443 F35 2012


Date Posted:      January 8, 2017

Reviewed by Judith Reveal[1]

Caveat. Perpendat itaque lector cavendum (civilis).[2]

“. . . yet another exciting race through the byways of the spy community . . .”

Daniel Silva’s protagonist, Gabriel Allon, just can’t seem to complete a simple art restoration without being sucked into another spy operation on behalf of Israel. In The Fallen Angel what starts out as an apparent suicide turns into a murder when a beautiful woman falls to her death at the Vatican.

When Monsignor Luigi Donati, private secretary to His Holiness Pope Paul VII, summons Gabriel from his work restoring a Caravaggio masterpiece at the Vatican, to view the scene, Gabriel quickly determines the death is murder, but has no means of proving his theory. Asked by Donati to investigate, Gabriel begins his slow descent into the dark secrets hidden behind the Vatican walls—secrets that reach into the very rooms of His Holiness and beyond.

The chain of events starting with a murder in the Vatican engages in many twists and turns occurring as Gabriel’s team soon begins to follow a trail that leads from the death of the woman to “an art theft in France, an explosion at a gallery in St. Moritz, a kidnapped Iranian diplomat, and a dramatic counterterrorism operation in the heart of Vienna.”

The team follows the clues they uncover further down the rabbit hole until a major plot to destroy Israel in its entirety is laid bare in front of Gabriel. But can he unravel the knots that Daniel Silva has so effectively tied and cast before him?

As usual, Daniel Silva has constructed an effective series of situations that build in intensity from one chapter to the next until the reader is running along the hallways of the Vatican through the ski resort of St. Moritz to the chasms below Jerusalem, dodging bullets and bombs and out-of-control cars, hanging on Gabriel’s every move, and wondering what can be done to extract him from certain death situations.

Daniel Silva selects his words with care to craft vivid scenes just as Gabriel Allon uses paints to restore priceless masterpieces. His hero wrestles with a past life of anguish and loss while struggling to understand and accept a new life of love and hope, all the while knowing that both lives are woven together by the everpresent existence of the Jewish State of Israel.

Gabriel understands that both of his lives depend on the continued existence of Israel, and as hard as he might try to leave it behind and pursue a life in retirement, the ugly fact is that when he is called, he will always respond.

Mr. Silva’s characters are well drawn and effective in their roles. Each brings his or her own talents to the table while not overshadowing Gabriel’s role as leader.

One of Mr. Silva’s stronger writing skills is his ability to let the reader know something of importance has happened without actually sharing the scene with the reader until the action has passed and is revealed through dialogue or past-tense narrative. While most readers would like to watch a scene as it is played out, Mr. Silva is skilled at keeping some secret until after the fact.

The Fallen Angel is yet another exciting race through the byways of the spy community—one that Daniel Silva knows only too well.

[1] Judith Reveal at New York Journal of Books, downloaded January 8, 2017

[2] On occasion, personal loyalties and opinions can be carved in stone and defended with a vengeance — at times with some venom thrown in. In these situations, the actual importance of the subject matter is dwarfed by the amount of aggression expressed. Retain a sense of proportion in all online and in-person discussions. [From The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies.]