Daniel Silva isn’t a bestselling author of thrillers for nothing – he writes well, develops interesting plots and characters, and creates suspense, all without overdoing the sex and blood.
Of course, a good thriller needs to provide a believable framework. We can deal with a certain amount of exaggeration – no one really thinks James Bond is a realistic figure – but a master Mossad spy and licensed killer who is a world-class art restorer? Gabriel Allon, Silva’s hero, is just that, and while it may be true that Israel contains the highest concentration in the world of people with interesting stories per square inch, this combination of attributes is a bit much.
Then there’s the spy’s celebrity status. I either missed or have forgotten the book in which Allon’s exploits bring him world renown, but it apparently happened, and in The Heist Allon is both world famous and still operational.
The Heist is a recent publication (2014) and deals with the war in Syria. Silva postulates that the reason Bashar Assad clings to power is financial; he has siphoned billions of money from the Syrian economy and wants to keep on doing it. While the Assad family has obviously become wealthy as rulers of Syria, since, according to this story, they already have billions stashed in banks around the world, why would they need to risk their lives to keep stealing? I thought they were clinging to power to avoid the fate of other deposed dictators, like Gaddafi, their Libyan neighbor. Even if the ruling family could flee the country and live abroad on their ill-gotten wealth, they would face the danger of being extradited back for trial by the new regime. The new rulers could also be expected to take their revenge on the remaining members of Assad’s clan and their supporters.
Or maybe Assad has just been a shrewd predictor of his chances to maintain the status quo, with the help of his friends Russia and Iran.