By Daniel Silva, G.P. Putnam Sons, New York, N.Y. 469 pages, $26.95
‘The Defector” is Daniel Silva’s latest novel featuring one of contemporary literature’s most compelling and intriguing characters—Gabriel Allon. Allon, an artist and renowned art restorer, is also one of Israel’s most important secret weapons—a trained spy and professional assassin. Allon is called upon time and time again to do battle in the never-ending fight of decent people to protect themselves and civilization from the deadliest and cruelest forces of evil.
Silva, a former journalist and television news producer, has created a unique character whose core of basic decency and simple yearning for a quiet life is challenged by his country’s demands for his highly specialized services. He is constantly struggling with the great existential question of what a good person can and should do when confronting enormous evil.
Silva has become a New York Times best selling author through the Allon adventures. He has legions of devoted and passionate readers who eagerly await the next great adventure that Allon will undertake.
What is the secret of Silva’s success? Silva’s novels are great entertainments with fascinating and complex characters, rich historical and cultural details and suspenseful and page-turning plots. Moreover, Silva writes cautionary tales to the reading public which demonstrate his keen knowledge of the real world of current events and global strategic issues. He demands of his readers thoughtful consideration of the civilized world’s greatest issues and, in return, shares with us his keen insights into the nature of our dilemma and the moral and strategic appropriateness of our potential responses to the challenges we face.
‘The Defector” is a sequel to “Moscow Rules,” one of the best selling novels of 2008. In “Moscow Rules,” Allon confronts and defeats a sinister, cunning and vicious adversary who has been selling arms to Al Quaeda to be used in a massive and horrific attack against Western Civilization. Unfortunately, circumstances don’t allow for this evil arms dealer’s demise at Allon’s hands. Indeed, Allon barely escapes with his life and is, in fact, saved by a Russian intelligence agent who defects to the West with Allon’s help. In return, Allon promises his Russian friend that he will protect him against retaliatory assassination and placement in a forgotten and unmarked grave—the most severe punishment inflicted by Russian intelligence operatives against their own defectors and dissidents. The story of “The Defector” requires Allon to fulfill his commitment when his friend mysteriously disappears from the streets of London. Has his friend been a double agent all along? Has he suffered a severe bout of defector’s remorse and homesickness? Or has he been kidnapped by the notorious and vindictive arms dealer who now seeks revenge against all who have challenged him?
“The Defector,” while a sequel, is a true stand alone novel. While reading “Moscow Rules” may sharpen the reader’s appreciation of his new creation, Silva has deliberately created a novel that can be read and appreciated on its own terms without any previous exposure to “Moscow Rules” or, indeed, any other Silva novel. This is a riveting tale of revenge, treachery and deception. It begins in Italy and takes us to London, Washington, D.C., Israel, Paris, Geneva, Zurich, Russia and the French Riviera. We see Allon’s efforts, once and for all, to confront and destroy an arms merchant who enriches himself by destroying peoples and countries and who will sell to the most savage forces—the forces of international terrorism and despotism—for a price.
In the story we learn, once again, of the conspiracy found in Russia today to suppress civil liberties, freedom of the press and the right to criticize one’s own government. The novel explores the corrupt links amongst government officials, current and former intelligence officers and secret police agents and the new Russian billionaire class which controls the levers of Russia’s economy. We learn, once again, the high price decent people must pay to challenge and thwart those who would support and profit from alliances with the forces of darkness in the name of their own selfish financial enrichment or alleged “national interest.”
‘The Defector” is a novel in the best tradition of Graham Greene and John le Carré and, like these esteemed writers of international intrigue, well worth reading as an exciting novel of suspense and mystery and as an important cautionary tale of the dangerous world in which we live.
Richard M. Weinberg is an Acting Supreme Court Justice and presiding judge of the Midtown Community Court.