Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Prince of Fire by Daniel Silva: A review

The Israeli assassin Gabriel Allon has been outed. His cover as the art restorer Mario Delvechhio has been blown. His enemies know who he is and where he is which puts him in mortal danger.

Responding to the threat, the Israeli intelligence service hastily extracts Allon and his lover, who is also an Israeli agent, from Venice and brings them back to Israel where they are given new quarters and Gabriel must go to the "Office" every day to participate in an inquisition as to how the latest debacle happened.

There had recently been several terrorist bombings of Israeli facilities around the world, bombings that were attributed to Palestinians, but the Israelis must figure out who is planning and executing these attacks. There is an urgency about doing this before another attack takes place.

Meanwhile, Gabriel has made arrangements to bring his wife, Leah, who has been in a nursing facility in England for thirteen years since the explosion that killed their son and seriously injured her, back to Israel. And his current lover is pressuring him to finally divorce Leah and marry her. All the necessary papers have been drawn up; all he has to do is sign them. 

The search for the person responsible for the current wave of terrorist attacks leads back to the Black September Movement and to Allon's first assignment as an assassin - to kill those who attacked and killed members of the Israeli Olympic team in Munich in 1972. At length, Gabriel becomes convinced that the perpetrator of these latest attacks may be the son and grandson of earlier terrorists, that it may, in fact, be the son of one of the Black September terrorists that he killed.

Daniel Silva provides quite a fascinating history of how Black September came to be as well as its forerunners. This "history" is fictionalized, of course, and has a definite Israeli bias, but then the protagonist/hero is Israeli, so it could hardly be otherwise. No doubt if he were Palestinian, the "history" would slant a bit differently. Nevertheless, the backstory provided by Silva is based on verifiable historical events and it gives considerable context to the current and ongoing conflict between Palestinians and Israelis over the blood-soaked unholy land of the Middle East.

In my opinion, this fifth book in the Allon series is the best one yet, to a great extent because of the historical background that is given, but also because Silva seems to have a firmer, more sure-handed grasp of his characters this time. And that is to be expected, of course. The more one writes about a character, obviously the better known that character becomes to him.

I found the plot of this book more gripping and compelling than some of the others in the series. It was also pretty straightforward and easy to follow. The moment when Allon learns that his physically and mentally damaged wife has been kidnapped was a turning point in the story and in the series for me. It made Allon somehow more human and sympathetic, not the pitiless automaton that he has occasionally seemed.  

Prince of Fire was a thriller in the best sense of the word. It was a book that, once started, I didn't want to put down.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

7 comments:

  1. I'm glad that you have read another book in the Gabriel Allon saga. Just today the latest book was published.

    I agree that this installment was a solid entry in the franchise, though I seemed to have liked it a bit less than you did--I gave it 3-1/2 stars. In my defense, I was reading the books more or less back to back, which could have altered my perception. The history, as you say, is solid though, which is what makes this book even more compelling than its predecessors.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is definitely my favorite of the ones that I have read.

      Delete
  2. I am just today writing my review of this one. Woo woo! Hope to post it later today. I just want to copy yours but of course I will not. It is a good review!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How serendipitous! I will look forward to reading what you have to say about it.

      Delete
  3. I picked up one of Silva's books a month or so ago, and now I'm hooked! I've been jumping around a bit, though, and read the one after this. I'll have to check out this one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am pretty obsessive about reading series books in order, so that's what I've done with this one and it seems to me that Silva is getting better at his art. This one is definitely the best so far, which leads me to hope that later books are even better!

      Delete