Daniel Silva began his career as a journalist, eventually working as a producer for CNN in Washington, D.C. After the success of his first published book, the 1996 novel The Unlikely Spy, he left CNN to become a novelist full-time. Moscow Rules is
his eleventh novel, and the eighth in his Gabriel Allon series which began with The Kill Artist in 2000.
Gabriel Allon is a superspy in a similar mold to le Carre’s more realistic George Smiley and Tom Clancy’s spectacularly popular Jack Ryan. However, Allon possesses something neither of those men can lay claim to: a brilliant artistic ability. Recruited from art school by the head of the Israeli Mossad, Ari Shamron, he has gone on to become one of the world’s great art restorers as well as an accomplished artist. His first mission for the Mossad was as an assassin assigned to eliminate members of Black September, the killers of the Israeli team at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Allon has since attempted to distance himself from Mossad but finds himself continually called upon by Shamron to perform especially sensitive or dangerous jobs.
In Moscow Rules, Gabriel Allon is once again drawn back to office when a Russian journalist claims to have information vital to the security of the West and insists upon speaking with him. Reluctantly pulled away from his Italian honeymoon with Mossad agent and wife Chiara, Allon agrees to the meeting. Of course, things never turn out to be as simple as they appear in the intelligence business. Before the journalist is able to pass on his important information, he is murdered by what is obviously a skilled assassin. Allon is forced to journey to Russia where he discovers Ivan Kharkov, a Russian arms dealer, has just completed a lucrative deal with Al-Qaeda. And there the fun begins.
The spy genre almost lamented the fall of the Soviet Union. Gone with the Cold War was the source of a vast treasury of plots and storylines. However, the rise of terrorism and a rapidly disintegrating relationship between the West and Russia has provided a wealth of new material. Silva has managed to bring the two together in his latest novel to enjoyable effect. Moscow Rules is a fast-paced read with the confident spy, black-and-white characters, and East versus West story we’ve come to expect in espionage novels.
Gabriel Allon is certainly a smooth operator. He has seen it all before. He knows how to shoot to kill, has the right connections, the knowledge, and is a world class art restorer to boot, which adds some fun to the formula. At times he can be a little much: he’s sensitive, emotionally torn, and a little too skilled with the paintbrush. It can all feel a little contrived at times, but one has to believe that Silva has his tongue planted firmly in cheek. Fortunately, just when Allon appears to be infallible, he and his team slip up a bit, allowing the reader to continue to enjoy the chase.
Moscow Rules is at times predictable because of its adherence to spy novel conventions. It has the intelligence operation that takes the usual jump from perfection to catastrophe while allowing everything to turn out fine in the end due to timely heroics. The conclusion to the novel wraps up just a little too neatly, leaving the reader with a nicely wrapped package. But in the spy genre, it’s the journey that matters, even if the destination is often easily foreseen. Daniel Silva has produced a character in Gabriel Allon who is likable even if he is a bit too good at his job. For fans of espionage thrillers who have grown tired of the rapidly declining quality of authors like Tom Clancy, Daniel Silva has got your back. Moscow Rules is as good a place as any to jump in.