4 stars out of 5
I love a great hero; from Tarzan to Perry Mason to Harry Potter, the good guy - especially if there's a titch of bad guy under the edges - gets my attention every time. Over many years of reading, favorites have emerged - characters whose personalities are so appealing that I look forward to reading about them again and again and, were it possible, with whom I'd love to share a beer (or two) and what I have no doubt would be interesting conversation for a couple of hours.
These guys have been on my Top 10 list for quite some time now (in case any are unfamiliar to other readers who might want to give them a try):
10. Forest ranger Joe Pickett (author C.J. Box)
9. Manhattan bookstore owner and part-time burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr (Lawrence Block)
8. Prison chaplain and former police officer John Jordan (Michael Lister)
7. Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent Virgil Flowers (John Sandford)
6. Psychologist and police consultant Dr. Alex Delaware (Jonathan Kellerman)
5. Cleveland private eye Milan Jacovich (Les Roberts)
4. The mysterious Roarke, husband of police lieutenant Eve Dallas (J.D. Robb, a.k.a. Nora Roberts)
3. British 007 agent James Bond (Ian Fleming)
2. Boston private investigator Spenser (Robert B. Parker)
And in the No. 1 spot? None other than art restorer and accomplished Israeli spy Gabriel Allon, who's the star of this book. In it - the 14th in the series - his beautiful (and younger) wife, Chiara, is pregnant with twins; they've been living in Vienna, where Gabriel is helping restore a major work of art. When a friend discovers the torture and murder of a former British diplomat who apparently has turned to trafficking stolen art, Gabriel begins to investigate - learning that the works of art may be a cover for a Syrian dictator to hide scandalous amounts of money. The chase, as usual, takes Gabriel to several countries where he dons different disguises as he and his team put together an involved operation to bring the dictator to his knees and, hopefully, locate the stolen art (in particular, a Caravaggio that's been missing for decades).
Many characters from previous books return in this one, and perhaps a little too much space is given up to explanations of who they are for the benefit, I suppose, of making sure new readers know the background rather than simply trying to fill up pages. Also, the ending is predictable and a bit abrupt - reasons that prompted me to give this one 4 stars rather than 5.
But in the end, it's a great adventure and a pleasure to read. I always enjoy the historical information that's sprinkled liberally throughout (even if it's not always factual). I honestly can't say this book is the best of the bunch, but it sure held my attention throughout.
The Heist by Daniel Silva (Harper, July 2014); 497 pp.