Like his previous two books, The Heist by Daniel Silva is both a crime mystery and an espionage thriller. This novel begins with a murder investigation surrounding a stolen painting and becomes a quest to hunt down the hidden assets of a Middle Eastern ruler. Once again the hero Gabriel Allon displays his many talents as an art restorer, investigator, and Israeli intelligence operative.
The plot begins with Allon attempting to save a friend from jail and embarrassment, by agreeing to recover the most famous painting in the world, Caravaggio’s Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence. While on this search he discovers multiple murders and a tie to a brutal Arab dictator. Gabriel seeks the help of a German naturalized citizen, Jihan Nawaz, whose family was the victim of a major massacre, in an attempt to hinder the Syrian ruler.
Silva has created Gabriel Allon as a complex personality, which makes him more believable, relatable, and realistic. He sometimes miscalculates, makes mistakes, and allows himself to be haunted by the loss of his loved ones. Although Silva writes the character with some flaws overall he is a seen as an incredibly gifted, very smart, passionate, and courageous person.
One of the most powerful scenes in the book is when Gabriel visits his first wife, Leah, who was scarred emotionally and physically by a terrorist bombing. It is heart wrenching to read Leah’s struggles with post- traumatic stress, psychotic depression, and becoming a prisoner to the past. Once again Silva brilliantly shows through very powerful words the cruelty of terrorists. He has Leah stating, “The snow absolves Vienna of its sins. The snow falls on Vienna while the missiles rain down on Tel Aviv.”
Silva commented to blackfive.net, “That quote is something Leah said in the very first novel, before she was severely wounded in a bombing. Here she was in Vienna, the country that produced Hitler, the Nazi leadership, and the Nazi machinery. She looked out and saw a beautiful snowy night in Vienna while on the TV she saw missiles raining down on Tel Aviv during the first Gulf War. We must remember that for every one of the attacks during the Intifada there were survivors who lost limbs, eyes, and/or had been badly burned. Leah represents something very important: Gabriel is an art restorer and can fix just about anything except her. It is very painful for him that he can never make her right.”
As with all Gabriel Allon books there is always commentary about the current situation in the Middle East and the impact it has on the Jewish State. Readers are reminded of the constant existential threat to Israel’s survival with the civil wars in Egypt and Syria, Al Qaeda’s re-emergence from Fallujah Iraq to Eastern Syria, and a Hamas-Palestinian reunion on its border. Gabriel questions if Israel will ever be able to live peacefully with its Arab neighbors.
Silva noted to blackfive.net, “In its early days Israel had to face hostile Arab nation states. What we have now is what he would call AlQaedastan, a non-state actor and a belt of Sunni extremism. If they get WMDs they could inflict devastating blows to Israel. He is really worried about it because he feels these groups will eventually turn their attention to Israel, and is very pessimistic about ever having peace. Just look at what is happening today where three Israeli Jewish children were kidnapped and brutally murdered by Hamas operatives. Then apparently we had six Jews murder a Palestinian child. Gabriel worries that this could escalate very quickly with a very bad outcome, since the Palestinians cheered the murder of three innocent children. The majority of the Palestinians and Hamas welcomed this and celebrated it. People should remember that Hamas’ charter calls for the physical reduction in the number of Jews worldwide. Killing these three children fit in to who they are.”
The Heist is not just a spy thriller but is also an art history novel. The plot line is action packed but also allows readers to learn more about famous paintings and artists. With Allon’s diverse cast of co-workers from Israel and England, Silva has weaved together a story with intrigue, insight, and suspense.