104 of 108 people found the following review helpful
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 Islamist 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
35 of 41 people found the following review helpful
"A Death in Vienna" is Daniel Silva's third novel about how the horrors of the Holocaust reach into the present. Gabriel Allon is a former Israeli spy who now works as an art restoration expert in Venice. His old boss from the Israeli Intelligence Service, Ari Shamron, appears one day with devastating news about an explosion in Vienna. Gabriel is not anxious to go back to the city where his wife and son had been victims of a car bomb in 1991. However, Shamron persuades him to return to this "forbidden city" to investigate the bombing of the Wartime Claims and Inquiries Office, which left two young women dead and an old friend, Eli Lavon, in a coma.
Gabriel soon learns that a man named Max Klein had set the events in motion that may have led to the bombing. Klein had once been a violinist in the Auschwitz camp orchestra and he had a particularly vivid memory of a Nazi named Erich Radek. In front of Klein, Radek once killed fifteen concentration camp prisoners in cold blood when they could not correctly identify a musical piece by Brahms. Many years later, Klein spots this same war criminal placidly having coffee in a Viennese café, and he reports what he has seen to Eli Lavon, who then begins to make the inquiries that almost cost him his life. Gabriel's investigation leads him to make some horrifying discoveries, the most painful one being the heart-rending story of his mother's two years of hell as an inmate of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Silva writes with great feeling about the harrowing events of the Holocaust and the culpability of those who helped the Nazis escape punishment after the war ended. In addition, Silva convincingly makes the point that radical right-wing political parties still pose a serious threat around the world, and that we must do everything in our power to protect our civil liberties in the face of these extremists. "A Death in Vienna" is fast-paced, compelling, and filled with intriguing twists and turns. It is a worthy, well-researched, and thought-provoking conclusion to Silva's excellent trilogy.
42 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2004
I'm truly sorry that I can't join in with crowd that has given this book high praise. "A Death in Vienna" left me strangely disappointed. Mr. Silva claims the book completes a trilogy on the unfinished business of the Holocaust. I finished the book feeling that Mr. Silva left the book itself unfinished - well, if not unfinished, then certainly unpolished [sic].
I have nothing against authors using their novels to bring home a point or issue important to them. But when the point/issue becomes bigger than the book itself, the book suffers. That is what happened in this novel.
Mr. Silva is certainly entitled to remind his readers that the Holocaust should never be forgotten, nor ever allowed to happen again (to any people). However, in his desire to bring that point home, the book lost the rich quality of his other works. I would have been much happier had Mr. Silva written an op-ed piece on the occasion of this book's publishing. Unlike Mr. Silva's previous works, I never got the feeling in "A Death in Vienna" that it was the characters who were tormented. Instead, it seemed all too clear that Mr. Silva was the tormented one. Not good, not even acceptable, for a novelist of Mr. Silva's caliber and capabilities.
Having served in Vienna, the book was somewhat of a trip down Nostalgia Lane for me. However, in painting the right-wing political party of Austria (Freedom Party) as two-dimensional bad guys reduces this book to nothing more than a paperback Western in the tradition of "Shootout At the OK Corral" (et al). "A Death in Vienna" is really nothing more (stylistically and structurally) than a revenge tale (seen "Open Range," anyone?). I don't disagree that Anti-Semitism was/is a problem in Austria, but to single out Austria when anti-Semitism continues to be a pan-European problem is a simplistic "pin the tail on the bad guy" approach to a much more complex issue. To imply that the "right" in Austria are the harbingers of a new Nazi movement is just as simplistic and impunes the majority of "rightists" in Austria who see their party (along with the right-center People's Party) as a solution to the ills of 50 years of failed "left" (Social Democrats) politics.
While I, in no way, am trying to excuse the fact that Austria was the birthplace of Hitler or that a majority of the Austrian population voted for the Anschluss, Mr. Silva displays either a naive understanding of the European (and specifically Austrian & German) political situation of the 1930s (as well as the situation confronting the U.S. in the immediate aftermath of WWII) or has purposely avoided a more balanced presentation in order to cynically highjack his readership for his own ideological purposes. I would remind Mr. Silva that much of the "anti-" sentiment in Austria today is not anti-Semitic, it is "anti-foreigner" (as a result of continuing problems in the Balkans). The "anti-" sentiment seen in Austria today mimics the "anti-" sentiment seen in the southern U.S. as a result of illegal immigration from South and Central America. Speaking of the U.S., I would also remind Mr. Silva that while it is indisputable that the U.S. set up and used the Gehlen Org, it was also the U.S. that pushed for the establishment of a Jewish State and continues to be Israel's staunchest ally.
This review is not meant to be a defense of Austria or of U.S. policies (past and present). Nor was it written to diminish in any way the significance of the Holocaust. Instead, it was intended to let Mr. Silva know that we (his devoted readership) have come to expect better from him. I fully agree, the Holocaust (or any systematic action against any people on any scale, however small) should never be allowed to even gather the slightest bit of momentum. However, if making such a passionate, personal point is crucial to Mr. Silva's telling of a story, please do a better job of it.
Finally, I hope "A Death in Vienna" is not the last appearance of Gabriel Allon. There is much left to explore in Mr. Allon's world and I would like to participate in the discovery.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 26, 2005
The synopsis of A Death in Vienna has been laid out beautifully in most of the reviews presented here. Just the sum it up again: Gabriel Allon an Israeli sometime spy is sent to Vienna in order to investigate the recent bombing of the Wartime Claims and Inquiries. In the course of events he discovers that a notorious SS man responsible for the death of millions of Jews during WWII is now living peacefully under a new name in Vienna. As to make things even worse he also seems to be meddling with current political affairs notably the election of the new chancellor.
Silva's language is brisk and precise. The characters portray a seldomly seen depth. And the storyline is vivid, intense and fast paced. In short an excellent book that will keep you hooked. As I am an Austrian I was further amazed by the accuracy with which Silva describes the city. His book referring often to wartime history is most definitely well researched. Nevertheless many parts are fictional which I would like to put into perspective.
First of all Austria or Vienna is not the dark somber place harboring Anti-Semitists as it may seem judging from the book. It has come a long way and is trying to deal with its past. True there is and there has been a right-winged party (as in most countries) however it has been discredited due to a recent scandal. Support for it has hit an all time low. Further Austria was never even close in getting a "Nazi" chancellor. In fact the chancellor is not even voted directly by the people, which is not made clear in the book. The party with the most votes usually nominates the chancellor and that has never been a right-winged party since the war. And last just to mention a minor mistake when ordering a "Schlagobers" in a Viennese café you are most likely to receive a bowl of whipped cream. A black coffee with whipped cream is referred to as an "Einspaenner".
Nevertheless I would recommend the book to anyone without hesitation. I hope to read more from Silva whom I regard as being an excellent writer. Not many authors can write about a topic as sensitive as the holocaust with such a grace.
17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 2005
Deep dark secrets from Nazi Germany, the Catholic Church and the Israelis always attract me, but this one fell disappointingly flat. Silva has really done his research, although it seems at times that he is just throwing out detail about villages, smells etc for the sake of it, to show that he HAD done his research.
There were quite a few instances where he over-explained actions to the reader: X, because he had done this, did that, because Y wanted him to do it. I suppose I'm used to writers like Le Carre, who was a craftsman, and who forced the readers to think carefully, who doled out enough info to tantalise, but not so much that the climax was spelled out. Silva, while he has some nice turns of phrase and scene, is competent at this genre, but is by no means in Le Carre's class. The climax was obvious by the halfway point (and was well and truly signposted at regular intervals thereafter), and although a few minor twists intervened, the only time my interest was stirred was the border crossing with Radek anaesthetised in the back of the car. The rest of the pacing was at a plod.
The characters were stereotyped, the providential events (having coffee with the Pope's private secretary was one) strained my credulity and were it not for the cleanness of the prose, I would have put the book down midway through.
I won't be reading any other of Silva's books, which is a shame, as the content of his novels sounds interesting. It's just the delivery that lets it down.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
"A Death in Vienna" is the kind of book Frederick Forsythe used to write. This tightly written thriller recalls the best elements of Forsythe's 'Oddessa File.' in which the sins of the Holocaust are recalled in the framework of hunting down a suspected Nazi war criminal. Silva manages to convey the horror of the Holocaust without being preachy, and has come up with a page-turning globe-trotting novel with a strong heart, plenty of action, and a compelling cast.
Silva's writing keeps getting better and better.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on August 14, 2004
I don't know much about Mr. Daniel Silva but it feels as he lived through the events or at least was exposed to stories told by people, who lived through the events described in the book.
This is a case, somewhat familiar, of a hunt for an old Nazi, who was able to escape the prosecution. Yes, this approach was used on a number of times by many good writers in order to tell the story of the war, pain, terror, suffering, survival and escape of the criminal, who played the system and the system protected him. All these books end up with some kind of a punishment but neither writer nor the reader are ever satisfied. Even the worst punishment cannot restore the wrong done to so many innocent people and it never returns the dead. But, nevertheless, the punishment is important and it has to be public in order for people to realize what happened and to what degree. Also we hope that it would never happen again but it happens on a smaller scale as local genocides and as the terror spread out by the militant Muslims. So, this book, as many others, is very important.
But what makes it different, standing out, personal? When I was reading this book I had the feeling that Mr. Silva was very personal. It was not just another thriller with the Israeli secret service and running around the world. There was a painful story in the foundation of the book. This story is so familiar to so many Jews around the world. Every Jewish family had members, who perished during the war and not fighting the enemy but being starved and beaten to death, by being killed in so many ways, by being gassed and burnt and by being violated even after death through the denial of what the Nazis did.
I believe Mr. Silva reached the "best so far" with this book. Keep writing, Mr. Silva. You are on the right way.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 2005
This is the seventh book from Daniel Silva, and his fourth dealing with the escapades of part-time art-restorer part-time Israeli spy/assassin Gabriel Allon. As always, Silva does not dissapoint. A colleague of Allon's is killed in his office in Vienna, an office that specialises in investigating aspects of the holocaust. Allon's handler, Ari Shamron, directs Allon to investigate, and so the story starts. A story that takes us to Austria, Italy, the Argentinian highlands, the United States, and of course to Israel. The story also touches on two themes that Allon has visitied before: the holocaust, and the relations between the Vatican and the Third Reich. The story is a thriller in every sense, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, as I have all of Silva's books. Silva usually takes his readers on an enchanting journey through many interesting countries and cities, and he is a master at accurate descriptions of these places. His descriptions in other novels of Rome, Venice and Jerusalem, amongst other places, were simply outsanding, and highly accurate. At least, in my experience of these places. But he and I clearly had very different experiences of Vienna. I was surprised by his "missing the mark" with Austria in general and Vienna in particular. It is a wonderful country and a wonderful city: gay, lively, tolerant. It is hardly this dark and foreboding hotbed of antisemitism and fascism like he has chosen to portray it. I suspect that Silva did spend some time Vienna, and it is not too accurately portrayed, when compared with my own experiences. And, while I do concede that Austrian coffee terminology can be a little tricky for a non-German speaker, I suspect that few Viennese order a cup of whipped cream in a cafe. However, that is not to say that this book is a most enjoyable read, and I have no hesitation in recommending it. If this is your first "Gabriel Allon" novel, I would recommend to read the previous three first, to put it in perspective. Vienna has a special place in Allon's history, and I think it is important to understand that when reading this book. From me: three and a half stars!
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2005
I'm a big fan of the entire Allon/Shamron series. Silva is one of the few authors today who makes sure he gets the historical aspects of his story right before putting it on paper. In the Allon series he touches on a very sensitive subject with the Catholic Church and Nazi Germany. I loved it!
Not his best in the 'Art Restorer's' series as far as action and suspense goes, but the historical flashbacks with his mother and the death march made it well worth it.
Very similar to The ODESSA File by Forsyth.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2005
I truly enjoy novels that are more than just good writing, though Silva's work clearly meets this standard. This book is intelligent, thoughtful and well researched. Silva calls upon historical references to WW2 and the holocaust, making the novel both an excellent read and emotionally charged.
Beyond these points, Silva's writes a darn good spy/assassin/intrigue novel.