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The Defector Hardcover – July 21, 2009
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Over the course of a brilliant career, Daniel Silva has established himself as the “gold standard” of thriller writers (Dallas Morning News), a “master writer of espionage and intrigue” (The Cincinnati Enquirer), and the creator of “some of the most exciting spy fiction since Ian Fleming put down his martini and invented James Bond” (Rocky Mountain News). Now Silva takes that fiction—and his hero, the enigmatic art restorer and assassin Gabriel Allon—to a whole new level, delivering a riveting tale of vengeance that entertains as well as enlightens.
Six months after the dramatic conclusion of Moscow Rules, Gabriel has returned to the tan hills of Umbria to resume his honeymoon with his new wife, Chiara, and restore a seventeenth-century altarpiece for the Vatican. But his idyllic world is once again thrown into turmoil with shocking news from London. The defector and former Russian intelligence officer Grigori Bulganov, who saved Gabriel’s life in Moscow, has vanished without a trace. British intelligence is sure he was a double agent all along, but Gabriel knows better. He also knows he made a promise.
Do you know what we do with traitors, Gabriel? Many things have changed in Russia since the fall of Communism. But the punishment for betrayal remains the same. Promise me one thing, Gabriel. Promise me I won't end up in an unmarked grave.
In the days to come, Gabriel and his team of operatives will find themselves in a deadly duel of nerve and wits with one of the world's most ruthless men: the murderous Russian oligarch and arms dealer Ivan Kharkov. It will take him from a quiet mews in London, to the shores of Lake Como, to the glittering streets of Geneva and Zurich, and, finally, to a heart-stopping climax in the snowbound birch forests of Russia. Faced with the prospect of losing the one thing he holds most dear, Gabriel will be tested in ways he never imagined possible. And his life will never be the same.
Filled with breathtaking turns of plot and sophisticated prose, and populated by a remarkable cast of characters, The Defector is more than the most explosive thriller of the year. It is a searing tale of love, vengeance and courage created by the writer whom the critics call "the perfect guide to the dangerous forces shaping our world" (Orlando Sentinel). And it is Daniel Silva's finest novel yet.
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Amazon Best of the Month, July 2009: "If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared." The ninth book in Daniel Silva's smart, fast-paced series about enigmatic assassin and art restorer Gabriel Allon begins with an epigraph courtesy of Machiavelli. A fitting start to a twisty spy thriller chock full of clandestine meetings, tenuous alliances, and ruthless men. The beauty of Silva's series is that it is easy on acronyms and byzantine operations (so you don't have to be a spy novel aficionado to enjoy it), and each book gives you a discreet rundown on familiar characters and back-stories (so you don't have to start at the beginning). In The Defector, the disappearance of Russian defector and dissident Grigori Bulganov draws Gabriel out of semi-retirement and into the path of Ivan Kharkov, the former KGB agent and Russian oligarch from Moscow Rules. Exotic locales, intriguing characters, and a breakneck pace make for a riveting summer read. -- Daphne Durham
Amazon Exclusive Essay: Daniel Silva on Gabriel Allon and the "Accidental Series"
Writers tend to be solitary creatures. We toil alone for months on end, then, once a year, we emerge from our dens to publish a book. It can be a daunting experience, especially for someone like me, who is not gregarious and outgoing by nature. But there is one aspect of promotion I truly love: meeting my readers and answering their questions. During each stop on my book tour, I reserve the bulk of my time for a lively conversation with the audience. I learn much from these encounters-indeed, some of the comments are so insightful they take my breath away. There is one question I am asked each night without fail, and it remains my favorite: "How in the world did you ever think of Gabriel Allon?" The answer is complicated. In one sense, he was the result of a long, character-construction process. In another, he was a bolt from the blue. I'll try to explain.
In 1999, after publishing The Marching Season, the second book in the Michael Osbourne series, I decided it was time for a change. We were nearing the end of the Clinton administration, and the president was about to embark on a last-ditch effort to bring peace to the Middle East. I had the broad outlines of a story in mind: a retired Israeli assassin is summoned from retirement to track down a Palestinian terrorist bent on destroying the Oslo peace process. I thought long and hard before giving the Israeli a name. I wanted it to be biblical, like my own, and to be heavy with symbolism. I finally decided to name him after the archangel Gabriel. As for his family name, I chose something short and simple: Allon, which means "oak tree" in Hebrew. I liked the image it conveyed. Gabriel Allon: God's angel of vengeance, solid as an oak.
Gabriel's professional résumé-the operations he had carried out-came quickly. But what about his other side? What did he like to do in his spare time? What was his cover? I knew I wanted something distinct. Something memorable. Something that would, in many respects, be the dominant attribute of his character. I spent many frustrating days mulling over and rejecting possibilities. Then, while walking along one of Georgetown's famous redbrick sidewalks, my wife, Jamie, reminded me that we had a dinner date that evening at the home of David Bull, a man regarded as one of the finest art restorers in the world. I stopped dead in my tracks and raised my hands toward the heavens. Gabriel Allon was complete. He was going to be an art restorer, and a very good one at that.
Over my objections, the book was entitled The Kill Artist and it would go on to become a New York Times bestseller. It was not, however, supposed to be the first book in a long-running series. But once again, fate intervened. In 2000, after moving to G.P. Putnam & Sons, my new publishers asked me what I was working on. When I mumbled something about having whittled it down to two or three options, they offered their first piece of advice. They really didn't care what it was about, they just wanted one thing: Gabriel Allon.
I then spent the next several minutes listing all the reasons why Gabriel, now regarded as one of the most compelling and successful continuing characters in the mystery-thriller genre, should never appear in a second book. I had conceived him as a "one off" character, meaning he would be featured in one story and then ride into the sunset. I also thought he was too melancholy and withdrawn to build a series around, and, at nearly fifty years of age, perhaps a bit too old as well. My biggest concern, however, had to do with his nationality and religion. I thought there was far too much opposition to Israel in the world-and far too much raw anti-Semitism-for an Israeli continuing character ever to be successful in the long term.
My new publishers thought otherwise, and told me so. Because Gabriel lived in Europe and could pass as German or Italian, they believed he came across as more "international" than Israeli. But what they really liked was Gabriel's other job: art restoration. They found the two opposing sides of his character-destroyer and healer-fascinating. What's more, they believed he would stand alone on the literary landscape. There were lots of CIA officers running around saving the world, they argued, but no former Israeli assassins who spent their spare time restoring Bellini altarpieces.
The more they talked, the more I could see their point. I told them I had an idea for a story involving Nazi art looting during the Second World War and the scandalous activities of Swiss banks. "Write it with Gabriel Allon," they said, "and we promise it will be your biggest-selling book yet." Eventually, the book would be called The English Assassin, and, just as Putnam predicted, it sold twice as many copies as its predecessor. Oddly enough, when it came time to write the next book, I still wasn't convinced it should be another Gabriel novel. Though it seems difficult to imagine now, I actually conceived the plot of The Confessor without him in mind. Fortunately, my editor, Neil Nyren, saved me from myself. The book landed at #5 on the New York Times bestseller list and received some of the warmest reviews of my career. After that, a series was truly born.
I am often asked whether it is necessary to read the novels in sequence. The answer is no, but it probably doesn't hurt, either. For the record, the order of publication is The Kill Artist, The English Assassin, The Confessor, A Death in Vienna, Prince of Fire, The Messenger, The Secret Servant, and Moscow Rules, my first #1 New York Times bestseller. The Defector pits Gabriel in a final, dramatic confrontation with the Russian oligarch and arms dealer Ivan Kharkov, and I have been told it far surpasses anything that has come before it in the series. And to think that, if I'd had my way, only one Gabriel Allon book would have been written. I remain convinced, however, that had I set out in the beginning to create him as a continuing character, I would surely have failed. I have always believed in the power of serendipity. Art, like life, rarely goes according to plan. Gabriel Allon is proof of that.
About the Author
- Publisher : Putnam Adult; 1st edition (July 21, 2009)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 480 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0399155686
- ISBN-13 : 978-0399155680
- Reading age : 18 years and up
- Item Weight : 1.8 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.28 x 1.69 x 9.38 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #322,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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This is one of the very best spy/thriller series being written today. I enjoy the characters, each of which is drawn with a fine line and lots of details so we readers can connect and love them and worry with them as the tension reaches heart stopping levels.
I started by reading The Cellist, a recent book in the series. I was so impressed I began reading my way through the series starting with House of Spies. Never disappointing, I also appreciate the history and the Jewish and Isralic customs inherent in the books.
When this novel opens, Israeli master spy and assassin is back in Italy, restoring a Guido Reni altarpiece and debating the issue of having children with his wife, Chiara. Then Grigori Bulganov, the former FSB agent, vanishes off a street in London. Has he re-defected, returning home to Russia with insight into the way the British and Americans operate and dangerous knowledge about Allon? Or has he been snatched, in revenge for his betrayal? Allon needs to find out, even if it means flying in the face of direct orders from Shamron, his longtime boss, mentor and the head of "The Office". Not only is Allon's security at stake, but he made a promise to Grigori as they were driving to safety. "Promise me one thing, Gabriel," Grigori had said to him. "Promise me I won't end up in an unmarked grave" -- the traditional Russian punishment for betrayal. Nor is keeping that promise Allon's only motivation.
That promise and Allon's investigation are just the beginning of a dramatic series of events, as Gabriel must race to save the lives of those he cares for and deliver some measure of final justice to Kharkhov. It's not, properly speaking, a spy novel, but more of a suspense thriller in which the main protagonists happen to be spies or other forms of agents. The missions that Gabriel and his team tackle are deeply personal ones, culminating in a deeply personal act of vengeance at the book's close.
As with all Silva's books, the writing is careful and often eloquent. Still, anyone who has followed Gabriel and his team and occasional allies through all nine books in this series won't find many surprises outside the twists and turns of this particular plot. Gabriel is still torn between his desire for a peaceful life and his art and a deeper compulsion to do what only he (apparently) can do for his country; Shamron is still an elderly, tyrannical and rather ruthless 'retired' spy, etc. That's perhaps the single greatest flaw in this series -- while the characters' lives change (such as Gabriel meeting, falling in love with and marrying Chiara), the characters never really develop or change in significant ways. Thinking about this book after finishing it -- it's too good to stop and think while reading -- I realized that many of the passages about the thoughts of the main characters, removed from their context, could fit neatly back in to nearly any book in the series. It may sound like a quibble, but to me that means that while Silva is still able to craft a great thriller around one of the classic themes -- revenge -- his characters are getting a bit long in the tooth. Given the strength of some of his early, pre-Allon books ( The Marching Season and The Unlikely Spy ), I'd love to see this very good author turn his talents to some fresher material, before the plots also begin to feel repetitive. It's a tribute to Silva that this book -- which when I stepped back to think of it, was really just round two of Moscow Rules (Gabriel Allon) -- was such a pleasure to read.
Highly recommended to the author's fans; thriller readers will also enjoy it, although I'd suggest reading Moscow Rules before this one. (It's possible to read on a stand-alone basis, but you won't get the full background and context.) Die-hard spy novel afficionados may find that they prefer some of Silva's earlier books, which involve intelligence work as well as the tradecraft showcased in this one, or else read the works of Alan Furst or Olen Steinhauer. It seems to be open season on the part of suspense/spy novel writers on Putin's Russia; another new thriller I've just read and reviewed takes aim at some of the same themes (corruption and the oligarchs), albeit in a more oblique and less suspenseful manner -- Alex Dryden's Red to Black .
By Daniel Silva
Disclaimer: This reviewer is a Silva fan for 2 decades. I have just finished a re-reading of the this book as part of a re-read of the Gabriel Allon Series from the beginning. For me, I now have a better and deeper understanding of the value one can get from reading a Silva book.
It isn't the same the second time around. I feel differently about the story and the hero. I can not tell anyone how to write about a man in umpteen books and keep it not only enjoyable, interesting and a better use of one's time than anything the internet can provide, without wondering how does one write about the same man, doing essentially the same thing with essentially the same people in a completely unforgiving world and in an environment where treachery must always be assumed and, hopefully, avoided. This book is an example of how to overcome the insinuated barriers to superb writing. The answer is that Silva is extraordinarily passionate about his views of right and wrong, fair and not, and the varying nature of truth as it never just has one master to serve. Silva takes the news of the past and finds repetitions of that past news in today's headlines and tries to warn us all that we are doomed if we repeat the mistakes of our past. Perhaps not a new theme but a valuable one nonetheless. This book and a few others in this series are keen to remind us that we have no ally in the Kremlin, whoever 'we' are. Brutality and treachery, all to maintain the great divide between the haves and have nots in a country rich with everything the world needs or wants but cannot learn how to share for a fair return for all. The robber barons of the last century are still alive in Russia. The Soviet Union died because the robbers tired of supporting the outer republics so they abandoned them to a sort of gangster democracy. But to do that, the robbers needed to get to know everyone else's secrets and plans because competing fairly is not in their DNA.
Ultimately, their egregious behavior ran afoul of our hero's sensitivities. The headline is the main message to this review. Silva's Allon is the hero. He is selfless but confident, and he loves his wives but just a hair less than his country and nothing is more important than his word. Silva admires his hero, though his hero's faults sometimes make us uncomfortable. But the essence of this hero is that he lives his life putting his views of right, wrong, love, and honor all ahead of his personal well-being or wealth or popularity. Can any of us say that we live the same way? Of course not. That is how Silva can keep us enthralled time after time.
Read this book; for the first time or the second.
Top reviews from other countries
Although `The Defector' is a self-contained thriller it's effectively a sequel to Moscow Rules with the same good guys and the same bad guys. Basically it's Gabriel Allon against the Russian gun-running thug (turned oligarch) Ivan Kharkov. And this time, Kharkov's wife plus her children, the defector himself and Chiara Zolli - Allon's beautiful Italian-born wife - are all heavily involved.
To me the book is a less than effective sequel to `Moscow Rules'; the storyline is weak in places whilst the level of violence - even accepting that Ivan Kharkov and his cohorts are extremely unpleasant and extremely vicious - frequently veers towards the gratuitous. The political element brings into play the highest levels of the American, British and Russian authorities but, unfortunately, is less than credible.
Fortunately the final section, involving a high degree of last-minute co-operation between Israeli intelligence and an elite group of Russian Alpha forces, helped restore my slightly dented faith in Daniel Silva.
And, before you start on `The Defector', it's a good idea to read `Moscow Rules'.
Picking up a few months after events in Moscow Rules (which you should definitely read before tackling The Defector), the book opens with the apparent 'redefection' back to Russia from London of Gregori Bulganov, the SVR colonel who aided Gabriel Allon's escape at the end of the previous novel. That event is the catalyst that propels Gabriel back into action and kicks off a plot that wraps up the many loose threads left dangling at the end of Moscow Rules.
For those who haven't tackled a Silva novel before, or at least not one featuring Gabriel Allon, I would recommend going back and starting with The Kill Artist . Those familiar with Silva's previous novels will find that The Defector has the author's usual mix of rapid paced, spare prose, accurate factual detail, solid characterisation and up-to-the-minute plotting. It helps that most of the characters on display have appeared in at least one or more of Silva's previous novels, giving both familiarity and some additional depth to even minor players. Equally the set up, with Allon and team going up against Russian oligarch Ivan Kharkov once more, is also a familiar one, which removes the need to spend time establishing the background to the plot and as a consequence The Defector hits the ground running and doesn't stop.
The pace of the book doesn't detract from the intelligence of Silva's writing. This is a smart thriller that avoids cliches or easy deus ex machina resolutions. None of the characters are impervious supermen, even if they are well trained professionals, and things go wrong as much as they go right. This lends events an air of realism that is sometimes lacking from other books in this genre.
The Defector isn't the perfect espionage thriller however. As with Moscow Rules a bravura first two third is followed by a less satisfying final act. After a great buildup as Gabriel and his team use every method at their disposal (some of them pretty gruesome and questionable) to achieve their aims, all with the clock ticking, lives on the line and tesnsion building, the big final showdown ends up being a bit of a damp squib. It is possibly a more realistic conclusion than Gabriel and friends achieving the perfect victory at the first attempt would have been, but its not very emotionally satisfying, even if everyone get's their deserved comeuppance in the end.
I'm also not a big fan of Silva's attempts to provide insight into his characters' emotions. This is the area where his writing is weakest as it drifts too often into the realms of overwrought 'purple prose', cod-psychology and heavy handed metaphor. When Chiara started having dream sequences about lost children I felt the need to skip forward and after numerous books I understand that Gabriel is supposed to be a tortured, romantic hero; I don't need constant recaps of past events in Vienna or repeated emotionally charged visits to his crippled ex-wife to get this point.
Still, none of these minor issues are enough to truly detract from the book's overall appeal. Some may find some of the more brutal action distasteful and I would not recommend the book to anyone who is squeamish or easily offended by scenes of torture, but for everyone else this is a great contemporary thriller that wraps up yet another chapter in the life of Gabriel Allon. Role on his next adventure, Rembrandt affair, the
In the previous book Kharkov's plans were foiled by Israeli superspy Gabriel Allon, and his wife and children were 'liberated' to a new life in the US. Hot for vengeance Kharkov has Grigori Bulganov kidnapped, the defector who helped Allon defeat him; Bulganov is plucked off the streets of what Silva calls "the Russian city sometimes referred to as London" (it seems to be more than just our football clubs that are in thrall to the Russian zillionaires!). Then, in a more daring raid, Allon's wife Chiara is abducted from their villa in Umbria. 'The Office' (the name Silva uses for Mossad) sanctions a rescue; as usual the CIA and MI5 are roped in.
His political and propaganda agenda notwithstanding, Silva writes rattling good thrillers. This is up there with his best, galloping from Tel Aviv and London to Washington and Moscow and places in between. There's a nail-chewing climax in a snowbound Russian dacha, followed by a chilling 'epilogue' designed to hammer home the message that the Israeli secret service is not only the world's smartest but also the most ruthless. "Utterly smart and totally ruthless" just about describes the kind of writer Daniel Silva is.
[Reviewer is the author of SHAIKH-DOWN]
I've read all the Gabriel Allon books and can only hope there are quite a few more to come without losing the continued enjoyment of the books. I see there is another new one due out this summer (2010) The Rembrandt Affair ...sounds very promising!
His being an accomplished artist and restorer is a bonus as I am a painter - I'd love to see more of Julian Isherwood and the art dealers in that familiar part of London ..just adds a little extra for art lovers and those involved with art in general.
The Defector, and the previous linked book: Moscow Rules, is just as brilliant - if not better - than all the others.
I've been fortunate to read all the books in the correct order - initially more by luck than anything else. A full list of Silva's books in chronological order can be found on his website.
There's only one of his books that I haven't yet read: The Marching Season, but I have it and will indeed read it. Another book not of the Allon series is The Unlikely Spy, and I found it totally different to all Mr Silva's other books, yet thoroughly enjoyable. Alfred Vicary, the main character, is delightful.