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The Kill Artist by Daniel Silva
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The Kill Artist (2000)

by Daniel Silva

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Sometime art restorer, sometime assassin Gabriel Allon isn't the only artist in The Kill Artist. Daniel Silva's artistic talent definitely shows as well. Silva does a masterful job of balancing action, drama and character building in this first installment in Allon's story. As a first in a series, The Kill Artist not only tells a great story, but it sets up the future of the series so well. This really is a spy novel for intellectuals. The action fits with the characters and has feel of reality that so many spy franchises don't bother with. A great start to a great franchise. A must read if you like the genre. ( )
  csayban | Sep 14, 2014 |
A friend of mine loaned me this book saying that the principal character, Gabriel Allon, was “the Israeli James Bond,” but Gabriel Allon seems to me to be an even more unbelievable character. Allon, besides being a super spy, is also one of the world’s five top art restorers, a single-handed (“expert”) sailor of a two-masted ketch, an opera lover, a skilled auto mechanic (old MG), and a biblical expert. In addition, he speaks “flawless” Arabic, whereas all the Arabs in the book speak it with some kind of recognizable national accent. Even when building a fire, “[h]e seemed capable of holding the hot wood for a long time without discomfort.” Sure.

I like to suspend belief a little when I read an adventure story, but Silva’s characters are just over the top. Tariq, the villain, takes five days to escape from Paris to Samos after an assassination, but on the way he manages to seduce three different women, driving all of them to multiple orgasms, needless to say.

The main female character, madly in love with Allon, is a super model of course. She “worked with good looking men every day in her overt life, but there was something about Gabriel that took her breath away….She decided she was going to make love to this man before the operation was over.” Naturally, how could it be otherwise?

The story takes place amid the interminable Arab-Israeli conflict, and the author gives both sides plenty of reasons to hate each other. Nonetheless, there can be no doubt that Silva’s sympathies lie with the Israelis. He has concocted a fast-paced narrative, and he even throws in a twist in the plot at the end. In the hands of a better writer, a twist is used to explain a factual anomaly in the main plot. Silva’s plot twist, however, is somewhat gratuitous in that it comes in after all the action has been resolved and isn’t necessary to make the rest of the story more believable. I guess it was an attempt at irony.

In short, I found this book too cartoonish.

(JAB) ( )
  nbmars | Aug 18, 2014 |
Great suspense thriller! Our cousin Chris recommended Daniel Silva to me two years ago at a family reunion on the Jersey shore. I just found the note I wrote it down on! And, boy, am I glad I did!! Fast paced, intelligent, & informative all at once! With an imperfect hero you can't help rooting for.
( )
  CMBlaker | May 6, 2014 |
After completing The Kill Artist I felt lifeless, and drained. Which is quite unusual for me. Another uncanny thing about this book is that it established a blistering 5/5 average rating right from the start. In this book it is 90% clear who we are supposed to side with. More unusual aspects of this unusual book is that the seemingly condemned character doesn't die. Also the hero doesn't perform much in the vicinity of heroics. I felt sad after reading The Kill Artist. I should not. The book wasn't geared for that. It's a freaking thriller. But below the exciting surface, there's the stirrings of unhappiness, sad endings, forsaken dreams, and moral meanderings. ( )
  Jiraiya | Apr 19, 2014 |
A new author to me. Quite a skilled writer. And I enjoyed the novel more than I expected. One comes to expect thriller characters and plots to be like peas in a pod from one author to the next. Unavoidable perhaps but Silva managed to stand out so i will be back. ( )
  rwt42 | Oct 21, 2013 |
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Epigraph
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Send men that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I give to the children of Israel; of every tribe of their fathers shall you send a man, every one a prince among them"
Numbers 12:1-2
By way of deception, thou shalt do war.

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For Jamie, who made this one possible, and everything else, for that matter
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The restorer raised his magnifying visor and switched off the bank of fluorescent lights.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0451209338, Mass Market Paperback)

Product Description
Former Israeli intelligence operative Gabriel Allon is drawn back into the game to take on a cunning terrorist on one last killing spree, a Palestinian zealot who played a dark part in Gabriel's past. And what begins as a manhunt turns into a globe-spanning duel fueled by both political intrigue and deep personal passions...

Amazon Exclusive Essay: Daniel Silva on Gabriel Allon and the "Accidental Series"

Writers tend to be solitary creatures. We toil alone for months on end, then, once a year, we emerge from our dens to publish a book. It can be a daunting experience, especially for someone like me, who is not gregarious and outgoing by nature. But there is one aspect of promotion I truly love: meeting my readers and answering their questions. During each stop on my book tour, I reserve the bulk of my time for a lively conversation with the audience. I learn much from these encounters-indeed, some of the comments are so insightful they take my breath away. There is one question I am asked each night without fail, and it remains my favorite: "How in the world did you ever think of Gabriel Allon?" The answer is complicated. In one sense, he was the result of a long, character-construction process. In another, he was a bolt from the blue. I'll try to explain.

In 1999, after publishing The Marching Season, the second book in the Michael Osbourne series, I decided it was time for a change. We were nearing the end of the Clinton administration, and the president was about to embark on a last-ditch effort to bring peace to the Middle East. I had the broad outlines of a story in mind: a retired Israeli assassin is summoned from retirement to track down a Palestinian terrorist bent on destroying the Oslo peace process. I thought long and hard before giving the Israeli a name. I wanted it to be biblical, like my own, and to be heavy with symbolism. I finally decided to name him after the archangel Gabriel. As for his family name, I chose something short and simple: Allon, which means "oak tree" in Hebrew. I liked the image it conveyed. Gabriel Allon: God's angel of vengeance, solid as an oak.

Gabriel's professional résumé-the operations he had carried out-came quickly. But what about his other side? What did he like to do in his spare time? What was his cover? I knew I wanted something distinct. Something memorable. Something that would, in many respects, be the dominant attribute of his character. I spent many frustrating days mulling over and rejecting possibilities. Then, while walking along one of Georgetown's famous redbrick sidewalks, my wife, Jamie, reminded me that we had a dinner date that evening at the home of David Bull, a man regarded as one of the finest art restorers in the world. I stopped dead in my tracks and raised my hands toward the heavens. Gabriel Allon was complete. He was going to be an art restorer, and a very good one at that.

Over my objections, the book was entitled The Kill Artist and it would go on to become a New York Times bestseller. It was not, however, supposed to be the first book in a long-running series. But once again, fate intervened. In 2000, after moving to G.P. Putnam & Sons, my new publishers asked me what I was working on. When I mumbled something about having whittled it down to two or three options, they offered their first piece of advice. They really didn't care what it was about, they just wanted one thing: Gabriel Allon.

I then spent the next several minutes listing all the reasons why Gabriel, now regarded as one of the most compelling and successful continuing characters in the mystery-thriller genre, should never appear in a second book. I had conceived him as a "one off" character, meaning he would be featured in one story and then ride into the sunset. I also thought he was too melancholy and withdrawn to build a series around, and, at nearly fifty years of age, perhaps a bit too old as well. My biggest concern, however, had to do with his nationality and religion. I thought there was far too much opposition to Israel in the world-and far too much raw anti-Semitism-for an Israeli continuing character ever to be successful in the long term.

My new publishers thought otherwise, and told me so. Because Gabriel lived in Europe and could pass as German or Italian, they believed he came across as more "international" than Israeli. But what they really liked was Gabriel's other job: art restoration. They found the two opposing sides of his character-destroyer and healer-fascinating. What's more, they believed he would stand alone on the literary landscape. There were lots of CIA officers running around saving the world, they argued, but no former Israeli assassins who spent their spare time restoring Bellini altarpieces.

The more they talked, the more I could see their point. I told them I had an idea for a story involving Nazi art looting during the Second World War and the scandalous activities of Swiss banks. "Write it with Gabriel Allon," they said, "and we promise it will be your biggest-selling book yet." Eventually, the book would be called The English Assassin, and, just as Putnam predicted, it sold twice as many copies as its predecessor. Oddly enough, when it came time to write the next book, I still wasn't convinced it should be another Gabriel novel. Though it seems difficult to imagine now, I actually conceived the plot of The Confessor without him in mind. Fortunately, my editor, Neil Nyren, saved me from myself. The book landed at #5 on the New York Times bestseller list and received some of the warmest reviews of my career. After that, a series was truly born.

I am often asked whether it is necessary to read the novels in sequence. The answer is no, but it probably doesn't hurt, either. For the record, the order of publication is The Kill Artist, The English Assassin, The Confessor, A Death in Vienna, Prince of Fire, The Messenger, The Secret Servant, and Moscow Rules, my first #1 New York Times bestseller. The Defector pits Gabriel in a final, dramatic confrontation with the Russian oligarch and arms dealer Ivan Kharkov, and I have been told it far surpasses anything that has come before it in the series. And to think that, if I'd had my way, only one Gabriel Allon book would have been written. I remain convinced, however, that had I set out in the beginning to create him as a continuing character, I would surely have failed. I have always believed in the power of serendipity. Art, like life, rarely goes according to plan. Gabriel Allon is proof of that.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:59:07 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Ari Shamron, the head of Israeli intelligence, calls on former intelligence operative Gabriel Allon to thwart a Palestinian plot to destroy the Middle East peace negotiations, a conspiracy linked to a Palestinian zealot with ties to Gabriel's past.

» see all 3 descriptions

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