Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Wot I'm reading: Murder at the Vatican

Gabriel Allon is back in the Vatican, restoring a priceless painting by Caravaggio. A female archaeologist is found dead beneath the gallery in the dome of St Peter's Basilica. The pope's private secretary asks Gabriel to investigate whether she jumped or was thrown to her death.

Since Gabriel is not just an art restorer but also a retired superspy-cum-hitman for the Israeli secret service, we can guess that the signorina did not commit suicide. And, as we always anticipate from Daniel Silva, solving her  murder will uncover a planned terrorist outrage (another one!) against the Vatican and the State of Israel. The trail leads from Rome to Vienna and Jerusalem - the Pope is about to make a visit to the Holy Land.

OK, these are locations Mr Silva has guided us through before and the conspiracy is also something of a 'revamp' (with a bit of Dan Brown-style archaeology thrown into the stew), but Silva's writing is superior to most other thriller-writers and he always gives Zion's enemies (it's Hezbollah and the Iranians this time) a scarily plausible fanaticism. Pope Paul VII, Silva's imagined successor to the Polish prelate, appealingly combines characteristics of Benedict, Francis and John Paul.

The Fallen Angel builds its suspense up to a cinematic finale beneath the Temple Mount. A story that seems to be torn from tomorrow's headlines, this is another total 'humdinger' from one of today's best thriller-writers.

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