The Rembrandt Affair by Daniel Silva
Published by Putnam Books, an imprint of Penguin
When an art restorer is shot in his home in the middle of a summer rash with art theft, it seems to be no more than a robbery gone wrong. Unfortunately, that proves not to be the case. A valuable, almost unknown Rembrandt is missing. There’s too much at stake to make this public knowledge, so the art dealer who has been in possession of the Rembrandt contacts his old friend Gabriel Allon, an art restorer and retired Israeli spy and assassin. As Gabriel begins to investigate the history of the painting, he discovers it has a very dicey provenance, disappearing from the possession of a Jewish man in Amsterdam during World War II. This history makes things personal for Gabriel, and he is determined to do whatever it takes to find this painting and get to the bottom of the theft.
What a smart thriller! One thing I really appreciated is that Silva does not treat his readers as if they were stupid. One thing that drives me crazy about a lot of thrillers is that authors often write unnecessarily short chapters with ridiculous cliffhangers in order to keep the story moving. Sometimes it works, but oftentimes it is simply obnoxious. Silva does not indulge in any of that. His chapters are as long as they need to be, without any manufactured drama. It made me feel as if Silva valued my intelligence as a reader. Yes, it meant that “The Rembrandt Affair” started more slowly than many thrillers, but Silva built suspense organically, the tension growing as Gabriel got deeper into the case. Indeed, every time I picked up the book, it grew more and more difficult to put it back down.
Gabriel, by the way, is my new favorite spy. Yes, he’s an assassin, but he’s an assassin with a conscious. Plus, he is a cultured, sophisticated art restorer – and this is a real passion, not simply his cover. And he’s in a monogamous relationship, so no oh-so-predictable sexual tension between the main character and the woman he must work with, which was refreshing for a change.
Let me also just say, this is one of the most beautiful hardcover books I’ve seen in some time. The art on the inside of the front and back covers was lovely, and the page before the title page was gorgeous, looking as if it had been painted, with texture so realistic I could almost feel it. And the paper it was printed on was rapturous. Yes, I know, that sounds far too strong a word for paper, but it was so incredibly thick and luxurious that every time I turned the page I stopped and thumbed the page. Actually, I was a bit worried when I first saw the book, because I assumed from the heft that it was well over 700 pages, but it was really just under 500 pages of wonderfully thick paper.
A great, smart thriller in an absolutely beautiful package. Personally I can’t wait to get my hands on more books from the Gabriel Allon series. Highly recommended.
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