Art restorer Mario Delvecchio, aka Israeli agent/assassin Gabriel Allon, is engaged in the meticulous and tedious task of restoring a Benini altarpiece in a church in Venice when his friend and fellow Israeli agent Benjamin Stern is murdered in Munich. Benjamin was a history professor there who had been in the process of writing a book. The subject of the book had been kept secret by him, but all of his notes and the draft of the book were stolen from his apartment by his killer; thus, it seems likely that the book was the motive for his murder.
Soon, Gabriel/Mario is contacted by his Israeli handler, Ari Shamron, and is sent on a mission to Munich to find out what happened to Benjamin and who killed him.
His investigation leads him to London, to an investigative reporter there who was apparently collaborating with Benjamin on the book. Shortly after Gabriel meets with him, the reporter, too, is murdered. Obviously, the subject of the book must have been explosive.
Following the clues that he has and his own intuition based on his knowledge of his friend Benjamin, Gabriel learns that the book dealt with the Catholic Church and the Church's complicity with the Nazis during World War II. During the time of Pope Pius XII, the Church failed to stand up and condemn the Nazis for their treatment of Jews and other minorities and it failed to give sanctuary to those who were trying to escape. After the war, it assisted some of the Nazi hierarchy that had survived to escape from Europe and the Nuremberg trials. Evidently, Benjamin had collected hard evidence of this complicity.
Meanwhile, in Rome, a new (fictional) Pope Paul VII has also been agonizing over this history and wants to release all of the information about what happened during those years. He wants to make all the documents public and to ask the Jewish community to forgive the Church for its failures. He wants to confess.
There are powerful forces within the Church that oppose the pope's desire to come clean and they are willing to go to any lengths - including assassination - to stop him.
If this sounds a bit like a Dan Brown novel, that's because it is. Secret societies within the Catholic Church have been popular subjects for several writers in recent years and this is Daniel Silva's take on them. He devised an interesting plot with which to explore the subject and his character, Gabriel Allon, is sympathetic and one wants to see him succeed.
But - and of course there is a but - this is the third book in the series and already the stories seem to be quite formulaic. The reluctant assassin is pulled from the job he loves as an art restorer and sent on a dangerous mission to engage and destroy the enemies of Israel. Along the way he meets a beautiful woman who becomes hopelessly, helplessly attracted to him and follows him on his mission. He overcomes many seemingly impossible obstacles, finally enduring horrible, life-threatening injuries in the course of chasing his quarry. But he still manages to overcome all barriers and to prevail.
Any series does inevitably use a formula and it must be a real challenge to keep the plots fresh and the stories unique. Unfortunately, this entry just seemed a bit stale to me and it is my least favorite of the ones I have read so far.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars