Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Heist by Daniel Silva

With a lull in book club book reading, it was time to turn to one of my favorite authors, Daniel Silva. I look forward each year to his new spy, mystery, and art history novel. The Heist was 2014's addition to his collection and was, as usual, a good and entertaining read.

Gabriel Allon is in Venice restoring a painting and awaiting the birth of his twin children with wife Chiara. It is not a surprise to his faithful followers that this work is interrupted by a crime committed for which his help is needed to solve. A notorious vendor of stolen art thief is found dead and according to General Ferrari, the Italian chief of police for art theft, all leads point to Allon's friend, Julian Isherwood. The murder leads to the question that the very famous  Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence by Caravaggio has been stolen. In his quest to find this,  Allon uncovers another series of murders directly connected to the art world. In his typical fashion, he finds that the murders and art thefts were connected to the Middle East and the ongoing crises there. In this novel, the reader is transported to Syria and the war it has waged with Israel. 

In a cleverly designed guise, Allon enlists the aid of a young woman, Jihan Nawaz, who works for a Syrian banker, but who witnessed the 1982 Hama massacre in which her parents were murdered. Allon plays on her hatred to aid him in recovering money stolen by the Syrian government. Jihan figures to be a new player in the Gabriel Allon novels and is one that the reader hopes will resurface in another book. 

As Gabriel is preparing to take control of the intelligence office in Israel, familiar characters make their appearance to support his scheme. One of the most poignant scenes is when Gabriel visits his first wife, Leah, who is in an institution as a result of the trauma she experienced in the auto accident that killed their son. Her comments hearken back to that time and elicit sympathy and empathy for their lives.  Uzi Navot is enlisted as well as his wife Bella, who feels that Uzi is being pushed out of his job. Allon also calls on Yaakov Rossman to bring his talents to the case. The twists, turns, and suspenseful action keep the reader turning the pages. 

One surprise in the book is when Silva mentions The Sybille of Cleves by Lucas Cranach. Cranach is my 12th great grandfather and a well known artist in the medieval world. 

Already announced for the summer of 2015 is Silva's new book, The English Spy. Here's hoping the English Girl will make another appearance. Can't wait.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

My Sister's Grave by Robert Dugoni

Robert Dugoni was a new author for me. He is another lawyer turned writer who is crafting his work in the genre of detective/courtroom drama and has been compared to John Grisham. My Sister's Grave is his latest and is a stand alone work that could possibly be the first for his new detective heroine, Tracy Crosswhite. As Tracy is investigating the murder of a dancer, she receives word that remains that could be her sister's have been found.

Through a series of flashbacks and present narratives, the reader learns that Tracy's sister Sarah disappeared nearly 21 years ago after the two had participated in a shooting contest. It was intended that Sarah drive hero older sister's, Tracy, truck back home to Cedar Grove, Washington so that Tracy could go with her boyfriend. A day later the abandoned truck is found, but there is no trace of the younger sister.  Tormented by the guilt that she felt, Tracy left her job as a science teacher in order to become a police detective and be able to spend significant time trying to come up with the solution as to what became of her presumed dead sister. Edmund House had been convicted of the crime, but when the remains were discovered, something didn't sit right with Tracy and she felt that maybe Edmund did not have a fair trial. With the help of a childhood friend and now lawyer, Tracy and Dan O'Leary commit themselves to finding out exactly what happened that tragic night.

Like breadcrumb leading back to the solution, Dugoni reveals tiny morsels of the events that followed Sarah's disappearance. With weather impacting every turn of the story from the soaking rains to the blinding snowstorm the pair manage to get a retrial for House. They have interviewed all those who were complicit in the first investigation and are confident in the innocence of House. From the judge who originally tried the case to Sheriff Calloway and a salesman recruited to attest to the spotting of a car near the truck, something seems amiss.

What follows the retrial is a page-turning and gripping group of events from which the truth comes forward amidst a set of twists and turns and after a number of red herrings. It's an easy read and a good, but not great book.