Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Kill Artist by Daniel Silva: A review

The Kill Artist (Gabriel Allon, #1)The Kill Artist by Daniel Silva
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of my blogger-buddies, Carmen, is a big fan of this series and my husband has recommended it to me on various occasions over the years, so I finally decided to pick it up and see what all the shouting was about. After all, the series has been very popular since this first book was published in 2001. There are many who love it, so it must have some interesting qualities to recommend it.

Of course, the only way to read a series, in my opinion, is to start at the beginning, so here I sit with the first of the Gabriel Allon spy thrillers, The Kill Artist, in hand, and, overall, I did find it to be an interesting read.

For those unfamiliar with the books, Daniel Silva's creation, Gabriel Allon, is a former agent with the Israeli Mossad. He left the spy service some years before this first book and settled down to become an art restorer. He was very successful at this profession and has become one of the most acclaimed restorers of damaged art in the world, but he keeps getting pulled back into the world of espionage by the man who originally recruited him.

Allon has a tragic past. His wife and son were blown up by a car bomb in 1991 in Vienna. It is eventually revealed that the Palestinian agent who was responsible for that bomb is named Tariq. Years before, Allon had assassinated Tariq's older brother, Mahmoud, so the car bomb was another case of tit for tat in the seemingly endless cycle of mindless revenge which seems to govern Israeli/Palestinian relations.

Incidentally, one of the things which I found interesting about Silva's writing was that he did seem to make an effort to fairly depict both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, even though much of the story was riddled with cliches of the victimization and suffering that are familiar to anyone reading or watching the news from that war-torn part of the world.

In this present story, Allon is contacted by his old boss at the Mossad and offered a chance to finally take Tariq out - that is, kill him. A chance for more revenge. An elaborate operation, involving a beautiful model with whom Allon has worked with and had an affair with before, is put in play in order to accomplish the killing of Tariq.

The tale is told in third person. The all-seeing eye follows the various characters around and reports on their activities. It was a bit disconcerting to me that the action jumped rapidly between the various characters and settings. Just when I was getting used to Allon in Cornwall, suddenly we are off to Israel or Paris or London or some other setting and some other character. It was enough to give me mental whiplash.

All of the characters here seem entirely ruthless and willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission at hand. The depiction of both the Palestinian and the Israeli agents really depressed me, but I think it's just the whole Middle East situation that I find depressing and the fact that there seem to be so few people of good will on either side who are willing to take a risk for peace. Those who do often find themselves targets for assassination. In the end, nothing is really accomplished; nothing ever changes.

And that seems to be the end result in this book as well. It was a fairly quick read, good for hot summer days. It did keep me turning the pages. All in all, I thought it was a pretty good effort for an introduction to a series. I'm sure I will be reading more. 


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5 comments:

  1. Wow, you finally made it! As you know, I'm a big fan of the series (and thanks for the shout out). I think Silva does more than "make an effort" to depict both sides of the issue fairly. He puts things in perspective, but as you have realized, and that doesn't change as the series progresses, it's an endless cycle of violence. The globetrotting doesn't change either, so you know.
    I've always wondered when the conflict started and why. As it happens, Exodus by Leon Uris is giving me an insight about the genesis of, at least, the relatively modern hatred between these two groups. Eventually I want to read anything I find on the subject.

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    1. I agree that it is a fascinating subject. I read Exodus many years ago. Leon Uris was an excellent writer of historical fiction. I guess that one is considered his best.

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  2. My husband and I have set out to read this series together, also thanks to Carmen. (Well, not reading the book at the same time, but you know what I mean.) He has finished this one and I am next. I agree with Carmen on Exodus. Also, Herman Wouk has two novels about Israel: The Hope and The Glory. And for deeply literary reading there is To The End of the Land by David Grossman, about how a Jewish family and especially a mother deals with the conflict while living in Israel. From the Palestinian side is Gate of the Sun by the amazing Elias Khoury. I guess that is more an answer to Carmen. No charge to either of you for your bibliotherapy session!

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    1. Thanks, Judy. I made note of David Grossman a while back because of you. I also have both Herman Wouk's works on my TBR. I put the other two books you just recommended on my wishlist.

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    2. Bibliotherapy is the best kind of therapy, and, as always, thank you for your excellent suggestions.

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