Daniel Silva, who lives in DC, is the author of eight sizzling novels about spies, politics, assassination, and terrorism—what I call SPAT books.
His latest is the fifth book centered on Israeli Renaissance man Gabriel Allon, who balances his preferred calling as one of the world’s great art restorers with his reluctant calling as one of the world’s great spies. Sadly for Allon, the call to thwart the work of terrorists Abu Jihad and Abu Amar takes precedence over the call to thwart the ravages of time and elements on the works of Bellini, Rubens, and other old masters.
In Prince of Fire, Allon not only puts aside his brushes and solvents to find those responsible for a grisly attack on the Israeli Embassy in Rome; he must also pull up stakes (get “extracted”) and abandon his Venice apartment when it’s revealed that the Rome terrorists know his true identity.
Back in Tel Aviv and charged with finding the terrorists and taking vengeance, Allon tackles the assignment as he would a restoration—removing the offending cover, piecing together clues, and using extraordinary talent to reconstruct reality. He soon learns that the Rome bombing is merely a warmup for a more horrific assault planned for less than six weeks later.
Not long after embarking on his quest for the architect of the Rome attack, Allon discovers he’s dealing with an adversary whose contempt for Israel goes back three generations. In a scene reminiscent of the dawning of the Corleone dynasty in The Godfather, the al-Khalifa saga begins with a small offense that’s repaid with monstrous retribution, setting the stage for crime, wealth, notoriety, power, and war. Now Khaled al-Khalifa, Silva writes of the family’s third-generation scion, has “taken up the sword of his father and grandfather.”
Without spoiling this riveting story, I can say only that the Israelis’ meticulous retaliation plan is undone when the terrorists discover what is probably Allon’s single vulnerability.
If you’re not normally drawn to SPAT books, Silva’s novels may still appeal to you. They’re infused with carefully researched details about history, art, Europe, and the Middle East. Whether the setting is Ireland, Italy, Austria, France, Egypt, or Israel, the books are apt to make you want to visit—or stay away.