Modern thrillers have become ultra-violent testosterone-bulked video-games-in-print.
I don’t say that as an admonishment against such novels, or video games; my favorite thriller is ICE STATION by Matthew Reilly, a guns-blazing-high-body-count action blockbuster; and the MAX PAYNE trilogy of video games, which necessitate the slaying of hundreds, likely thousands, of bad guys, make up some of my fondest gaming memories.
But as thrillers and spy novels have attempted to replicate their wide-screen Hollywood counterparts, character and plot have begun to feel less nuanced and increasingly hyperbolic. Once, authors could derive tension from two characters engaging in a conversation; now, that tension is exaggerated, and founded on impossible death defying acts. Once, an author could light the fuse, and the journey towards that inevitable explosion could be deliberate and measured; now, readers demand shorter fuses, and a faster payoff.
Like le Carre, still the master of the genre, Daniel Dilva has shrugged off these modern day tropes, and with THE HEIST, has crafted a slow-burn spy novel, thick with tension, with economical use of violence.
The fourteenth Gabriel Allon novel – my first – is a naturalistic literary thriller; hushed rather than hyperbolic; imbedded in the real world of espionage. And while his prose is wonderful, it’s never flowery; Daniel Silva never gets lost in the poetry of his sentences. THE HEIST isn’t a literary novel masquerading as a thriller; it’s simply the work of an extraordinary stylist playing with language in a genre revered for its brusqueness.
Gabriel Allon, part-time art restorer, full-time secret agent for the Israeli intelligence service, ‘The Office,’ is working on a project in Venice when he’s interrupted by General Ferrari, who pulls Gabriel into a mystery involving the death of a former English diplomat. The plot unravels from there into a complex tale involving missing artwork, and the pursuit of a money trail connected to the finances of a brutal Middle East dictator.
THE HEIST moves slowly, but its pace is deliberate, as Silva heightens the tension towards the its climax, when an innocent life is on the line and Allon holds the key to her survival. Gabriel Allon is a curious protagonist, two disparate passions merging to create a complex master spy. I’m fortunate; I have another 13 Allon thrillers to get to know this character. I’ll definitely be doing so.