The Defector is the latest offering in the Gabriel Allon series by Daniel Silva and it is clearly a sequel to Moscow Rules. Silva is one of my current favorite authors and I eagerly anticipated the release of this novel all winter long. It is one of those books that you just can't put down, definitely a page-turner.
To quote Machiavelli, "If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared. " and so begins The Defector with its theme of revenge. Six months have past and Gabriel is back at the Umbrian villa with his bride Chiara. He is trying to finish the restoration of a painting for the Vatican when he is informed that Grigori Bulganov, the Russian who saved his life, has disappeared from his sanctuary in London. Russian officials insist that he has redefected to Russia, but Allon and those from King Saul Boulevard contend that he was really kidnapped. And so the stage is set for Gabriel to assemble his team to find out what really happened.
The novel is full of plot twists and the usual globe-trotting... from Umbria to London to Paris to Saranac Lake and the Adirondacks to Langley, to Russia, Zurich, Lake Como, and ultimately Saint Tropez. Of course at the center is the Russian arms dealer, Ivan Kharkov, whose wife was smuggled out of the country by Allon in Moscow Rules. There is no length to which he will achieve his revenge and it will be Gabriel who will pay. As Ari Shamron, the Israeli spymaster, cautions, the key to success for any operation is silence, speed, and timing. All three elements must be in place as the novel reaches it climax in the snowy, cold birch forests of northern Russia. Here we hold our breath as helpless bystanders watching the action that tests men and women's courage and fortitude unfold.
Silva has mastered Shamron's mantra in his own writing. His command of words is timed perfectly, eloquently silent when the mood commands it, and proceeds with speed when he needs it all to come together. Although the plot can be misconstrued as formulaic, the complexity of interweaving all the elements is incredibly sophisticated. The only downside of having read this book as soon as it was published is that we now will have to wait an interminably long time for the next Daniel Silva tome.