Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Rembrandt Affair by Daniel Silva

I hadn’t been a big fan of spy novels but I had never read one by Daniel Silva. After reading The Defector (and loved it), I snatched up The Rembrandt Affair and read it…nay, devoured it in two days. It is a gripping edge-of-your-seat ride.

What sets Silva apart is his meticulous attention to detail in describing things and places the average mortal may never see. He states that it is a work of fiction but he forces you to believe it. I don’t know if the CIA actually has an underground facility below Grosvenor Square in London but the manner in which Silva describes it so vividly, I’m convinced there is.

His main character Gabriel Allon, former agent and assassin of the Israeli secret intelligence, wants nothing more than to retire to the cliffs of Cornwall and live peacefully with his beautiful wife and restore priceless works of art. That plan is shattered when an old friend comes calling, begging him to retrieve a stolen Rembrandt. Gabriel cannot resist the opportunity to rescue a painting from one of the Masters.

His investigation into the painting’s provenance reveals it was ‘bought’ by a high ranking Nazi officer during the occupation of Amsterdam. From there, the story delves into the atrocious crimes committed by the Third Reich and the sizeable fortunes of the Jews that disappeared during the Second World War along with their owners. Allon’s path crosses those of two men, each of whom had a father with activities of horrific distinction during the war. One is trying to distance himself from his father’s atrocities. The other is capitalizing on his.

But what horrifies Allon the most is the vast wealth of the Holocaust victims being used to fortify a country bent on creating a second holocaust with nuclear weapons.

As with The Defector, Silva spins a mesmerizing tale that involves the top secret intelligence agencies of several nations and their complicated interaction and cooperation. Or lack thereof. How much of it is fact and which is fiction? The secret agent stuff makes for an awesome read and The Rembrandt Affair is a must-read.

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