Gabriel Allon is one of my favorite fictional characters. He is the creation of Daniel Silva, spy thriller author, second only to John le Carré in my opinion. For all the spy novel fans’ fortune, there are fifteen books featuring spy master Gabriel Allon, and maybe more to come in the future.
Daniel Silva writes fiction, but his stories always have some level of truth to them, one way or another. He explores different themes in each book, explaining and giving background for each by mixing them with the plot. This is a trait that makes the books much more intriguing and interesting. Common themes are the rise of Islam, issues regarding the Holocaust, terrorism in the modern world and Israel’s modern history. In many cases it’s even possible to relate the book’s story with real events from the past. For example, in the fifth book, The Prince of Fire, Allon is chasing a Palestinian terrorist named Khaled al Khalifa, who was in real life, supposedly, Ali Hassan Al Salameh, mastermind of the Munich massacre and leader of Black September. In A Death in Vienna, Allon is trying to catch an ex-Nazi officer and war criminal, vaguely resembling the kidnapping of Adolph Eichmann in Argentina in 1960. Every book has a different fictional plot, albeit with a lot of truth behind them.
Back to the issue at hand, Gabriel Allon is an Israeli spy who works for “the Office”, although never mentioned in the books, it´s the Mossad. Gabriel is fluent in many languages, works across all European countries, and as a sort of independent spy, answers only to the Office´s boss Ari Shamron. Gabriel Allon is a huge success worldwide, and a favorite spy of mine.
Gabriel has depth. He is the son of Holocaust survivors and was born in the Jezreel Valley. Raised as a secular Jew, he is not religiously observant whatsoever, but risks his live every day for the Jewish cause and survival. In each book you get to know a bit more of Gabriel Allon, and he never strikes you as spy. Allon is quiet, not a huge fan of action and adventure, not too sociable, older looking than his real age, and performs as a spy only when requested by Shamron. All in all, Silva´s style is very much alike le Carré´s.
The spy earns his living being an art restorer who goes by the name of Mario Delvecchio, the best in the field actually, that learned the trade from the great Umberto Conti from Venice. Allon restores great pieces of art with a lot of care, patience and skill. And, because of Allon’s abilities and reputation, the best paintings are assigned for him to fix, such as Daniel in the Lion´s Den by Rubens, a Bellini and a Veronese alterpiece, among others. In another instance, Silva masterly inserts into the plot the extremely technically demanding violin sonata The Devil´s Trill by Tartini. It´s incredibly interesting to make the link between art and the espionage trade.
Gabriel also has a very interesting career, or life, since both are basically the same in his case. His first major operation was called Wrath of God, on which he was assigned to be the aleph, the killer, of the terrorist responsible for the 1972 Munich Olympics’ massacre. Vengeance was the reason for his first act. After proving himself, always with his .22 caliber Beretta at close range, he went on to chase terrorists or Nazi criminals, solve deaths in the Vatican, etc… anything Shamron needs really. In one such case, a car bomb, supposedly ordered by Yasser Arafat, took his son´s life and put his wife in the Psychiatric Hospital of Mount Herzl. That incident never left him, but he continued his pursuits across Europe nonetheless.
There are some rumors going around that a movie starring Gabriel Allon will be shot, but I doubt it will be better than the books. I´ve just finished reading book five of the Gabriel Allon series, and I don´t intend to stop there.