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"Where wood is chopped, splinters must fall."
on 25 February 2004
The death camps of the Reich provide the underpinnings of this intense and fast-paced novel in which the author draws new attention to the collusion of governments and institutions in protecting Nazi war criminals into the present day. Gabriel Allon, the main character, is working peacefully as a fine art restorer in Venice when he is suddenly summoned by his mentor in the Israeli secret service to investigate the bombing of the Vienna Office of Wartime Claims and Inquiries. Although the Austrian government has declared the bombing to be the work of an Islamic terrorist group, Allon believes it is more likely the result of current anti-Semitism within Austria. An extremely conservative candidate for Chancellor is given a high likelihood of winning the coming election and, the author points out, bringing the philosophy of the Reich into the twenty-first century.
As Allon searches for the perpetrators, the action careens from Vienna to Israel, Italy, Argentina, the US, and back to Vienna, and involves complex political, financial, and national security issues affecting a number of countries. Always, the present is tied to the history of the Reich. Erich Radek, a former Nazi, is still alive and active in Vienna, his war-time obliteration of the graves and bodies at Polish death camps so total that a new generation of Austrians is now asking, "Where is the evidence that the Holocaust ever happened?" Konrad Becker, a Zurich banker, has a mysterious client with over two billion dollars in assets; a Catholic bishop who helped war criminals escape is still connected to governments and police; successive governments in Argentina have provided aid to war criminals since the time of Peron; and American CIA agents have protected some war criminals during the Cold War. As Allon narrows the search to one well-protected man, the violence reaches a crescendo.
Silva's journalistic style is perfectly suited to his subject matter. He presents information efficiently and without preamble, in short sentences which move the action along quickly. Incorporating historical facts within his fictional framework, he provides testimonies from the Holocaust library at Yad Vashem, evidence from Auschwitz and Treblinka, and an account of Adolf Eichmann's capture to elevate the fiction, give it credence, and pack an emotional wallop. Within this exciting chase to apprehend the murderer, Silva develops his thematic goal of bringing continuing injustice to light, and few readers will fail to be moved by his zeal and the power of his historical details. This is a strong novel which transcends the usual "thriller" designation because of its reliance on verifiable evidence. Mary Whipple