What I’m reading: Israel’s spymaster turns art forger

Daniel Silva: PORTRAIT OF AN UNKNOWN WOMAN

 

Now retired from masterminding Israeli secret intelligence (surely he’ll be back?), Gabriel Allon has resumed the life of an artist in his wife’s native Venice, but he agrees to take time out to help trap a beautiful Spanish dealer in forged Renaissance masterpieces. The trap involves Gabriel dashing off a Titian here, a Van Dyck there, as “bait” for the art smugglers. The trail takes him to London, New York, Rome and Sardinia, familiar locations to Daniel Silva’s loyal readers. Tel Aviv, unusually, gets barely a mention. In a postscript the author makes it disturbingly clear that fraud and forgery are perpetrated on a massive scale in today’s art world with its status-seeking billionaire buyers.

Death is dealt in smaller doses than in Silva’s regular forays into Middle Eastern and/or Russian terrorism. Also missing are the labyrinthine machinations of Vatican politics, which is another of the furrows Silva has frequently and impressively ploughed. The pace of this one is as crisp as always, the writing supremely elegant, but at times it feels almost like a pastiche of his usual thrillers. Ever so slightly daft, Portrait of an Unknown Woman is still hugely enjoyable. That said, I hope Silva sends Gabriel back to the Vatican and/or Moscow/Jerusalem/Damascus in his next annual adventure.

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