Review

The English Assassin

by Daniel Silva



Among the authors who construct tales of spies and terrorists on an
international stage, Daniel Silva is establishing a presence as the
next master for newcomers to emulate. Strong storylines and an
ensemble of fascinating characters result in novels of more
substance than most in the current market. THE ENGLISH ASSASSIN is
the latest and perhaps the most complex, not only in the issues it
explores but the characters that we come to know within its
pages.

Gabriel Allon, who made his debut appearance in THE KILL ARTIST, is
a complicated man torn between two opposing worlds --- one
creative, the other destructive. Publicly, he is known as one of
the world's top talents in art restoration. Privately, he moves in
the shadowy circles of international espionage as an operative for
an Israeli spymaster. As THE ENGLISH ASSASSIN gets underway, Allon
is called upon to restore a painting for Augustus Rolfe, a wealthy
Swiss banker, at his home in Zurich. But he arrives to find the
banker murdered and the Swiss police knowing far more about Allon's
covert activities than would seem accidental. After being released
and warned never to return to Switzerland, his Israeli handler
reveals the true reason Allon was chosen to make contact with the
banker. Rolfe was a member of a highly secret organization that had
collaborated with the Nazis years ago to steal millions in valuable
artwork from their occupied countries. And for some reason, just
prior to his murder, Rolfe had contacted the Israelis requesting a
clandestine meeting.

As Allon begins his investigation to uncover the reason for Rolfe's
phone call, the trail takes him to a remote villa where Rolfe's
daughter, Anna, lives in seclusion. Anna Rolfe is a famous concert
violinist but, despite her remarkable talent, she is driven by
personal demons that took root in her disturbing childhood. She is
both empathetic and mysterious, revealing herself in bits and
pieces that portray the image of a woman who has been scarred by
life but refuses to succumb completely. Estranged from her father,
she was also privy to secrets --- secrets that will lead her and
Allon on a chilling journey through Europe and ultimately back to
Switzerland to unravel the truth behind her father's final
legacy.

And what of the Englishman? A mercenary for hire, the English
assassin is also drawn into the vortex of the past when he stalks
his assigned targets, Anna Rolfe and Gabriel Allon. Crisscrossing
Europe, the assassin uncovers the network of people who ally
themselves with Allon to unravel the web of corruption and deceit.
And everywhere he goes, he leaves death in his wake. Just as Allon
is tormented by what he feels compelled to do for his country, so
is the Englishman ravaged by the dark corners of his soul. Through
these two men, we see the parallels and paradoxes that have brought
them to this pivotal place in their lives. Silva lays bare these
characters' souls and exposes the undeniable truth --- there are no
sharply defined heroes and villains. Rather, each is an amalgam of
good and evil, driven to act but remorseful for those actions.
Their stories form a triangular drama with the fundamental plot,
all three unfolding simultaneously in the brilliant imagination of
the author.

It is worth noting that despite it's fictional format, THE ENGLISH
ASSASSIN is grounded in the very real events of WWII --- in
particular the looting of museums and private collections of
artworks that were subsequently hidden in Swiss vaults, and remain
so. Silva provides some tragic statistics on the continuing
resistance by Swiss officials to cooperate in any real
investigation. This historical backdrop suffused with churning
suspense, and thought provoking viewpoints make THE ENGLISH
ASSASSIN a worthy addition to your international thriller
shelf.

Reviewed by Ann Bruns (BkPageWC@aol.com) on January 21, 2011

The English Assassin
by Daniel Silva

  • Publication Date: February 25, 2003
  • Genres: Espionage, Fiction
  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Signet
  • ISBN-10: 0451208188
  • ISBN-13: 9780451208187