by Daniel Silva
My book selections are starting to feel like gold found at the end of a treasure hunt. The last few I have read were sent to me from authors or bloggers found on Twitter, and I have been very happy to discover new (to me) authors in genres I never otherwise would have chosen for myself. Today’s gold comes from one of the nicest perks of buying a retirement home which had previously been a vacation rental and was left fully furnished. I don’t know how you walk away from bookcases of old friends, but my bounty of choices is a win for me. I selected “The Rembrandt Affair” and began reading without knowing anything of the plot or author. Turns out this is book 10 in a series of 15 featuring protagonist Gabriel Allon, but as a stand-alone it worked and I didn’t feel I missed out by not knowing the character’s previous adventures.
Allon is a retired spy, also trained as an art restorer as part of the cover used in his former life. This novel starts with Allon coming out of retirement to help locate a stolen masterpiece as #art apparently has value. That art hashtag may tell you my lack of connection to that side of the brain. I am not a lover of fine art; I took my reluctant kids to museums as part of homeschooling because it was expected. I initially groaned when I started this novel because it had so much more detail about a subject that I didn’t care about. But this is where the talent of Silva shines. He made me interested. “The Rembrandt Affair” really read like two novels to me – first the introduction to the stolen painting and its history from the time of the Holocaust, the people affected by that time and the evil which prospered because of the Nazi regime. I was hooked.
The second half of the novel concentrates on the agencies which fight crime behind the scenes, training, planning and the politics of current day power hungry men and countries. It really did feel like a new book when Silva turned to that side of the crime, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Again, I wasn’t immediately drawn to the espionage part of the novel, but that’s on me. My brain is still healing from an injury, and details can be hard for me to keep track of – add to that the addition of many characters and places with unusual names, and I had to work harder to finish the book. But, I did finish it and I did enjoy it. I would recommend this to any fan of spy novels.
The best compliment I can give to the author is that once I closed the pages of the book, I was still thinking about the story. I’m not Jewish and I don’t typically think about the Holocaust. I recall decades ago reading Corrie Ten Boom and Anne Frank because every American high school student back in the day read those as part of history class. Mr. Silva’s writing about individuals in that time period (even though fictionalized) sparked my interest in the subject matter and makes me want to go spend some time reading and learning. That’s an amazing accomplishment for a work of fiction.