Review: The Cellist by Daniel Silva

The head of Israel’s intelligence service goes after the Russian President’s fortune in “The Cellist,” the 21st novel in Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon series.

When former CIA agent Sarah Bancroft discovers the corpse of wealthy newspaper publisher and staunch Russian insurrectionist Viktor Orlov, the subsequent investigation headed by Allon exposes the Russian President’s financier, and thus the possibility of infiltrating this inner sanctum and wiping out a large chunk of the autocrat’s assets currently utilised to destabilize the west through vast disinformation campaigns and cyber attacks.

The titular cellist is Isabel Brenner, an extraordinarily talented musician who works for the fictitious RhineBank, which ― through a multitude of underhanded practices ― funds rogue states, and launders money for the Russian government. Having borne witness to an array of illegalities, Brenner has decided to turn on her employers. She becomes Allon’s infiltrator, worming her way into the heart of the ‘Laundromat,’ where they hope to poison it from within.

This is a fairly straightforward ‘follow the money’ story that stretches from Europe to a rather cumbersome grand finale in Washington DC. As ever, Silva rips his fiction from the headlines of today, but his denouement, I’d say, is almost too closely linked to the real world, and feels shoehorned; added to demonstrate its timeliness to readers. 

“The Cellist” is an effective and enjoyable spy novel, meticulously plotted as always, with a grand cast of characters, many of whom return from earlier works, but it lacks some of the pizzazz of Silva’s best; perhaps because Allon is on the sidelines for the majority of it, and Brenner doesn’t have enough depth to be much more than a chess piece, manipulated for the sake of plot.

So, a solid addition to the Allon canon, but I’m keen to see the series evolve, as it has done time and time again, with continuity-chattering severity; we’ve been inching towards the Israeli spymaster’s retirement for several books now. I’m ready to see what’s next.

ISBN: 9781460755532
ISBN 10: 1460755537
Imprint: HarperCollins AU
On Sale: 28/07/2021
Pages: 480
List Price: 32.99 AUD

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