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90 of 103 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars it's not business; it's personal
It seems that the State of Israel is having no trouble in the great wide world. Its most accomplished agent is once again free to pursue matters of personal honor, unencumbered by obligations to Mossad, and indeed aided by that legendary organization.

Daniel Silva's early thrillers - both the Gabriel Allon series and the three Michael Osbourne novels - are...
Published on July 22, 2009 by Julia Walker

versus
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "By way of deception, thou shalt do war."
Daniel Silva's "The Defector" is a sequel to "Moscow Rules," in which superspy Gabriel Allon and his team attempted to outsmart the sadistic Russian oligarch, Ivan Kharkov, with the help of Kharkov's disaffected wife, Elena. Kharkov, a former KGB agent, is a ruthless arms dealer who foments violence all over the world for profit. Of late, Allon has been living a placid...
Published on August 19, 2009 by E. Bukowsky


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90 of 103 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars it's not business; it's personal, July 22, 2009
By 
It seems that the State of Israel is having no trouble in the great wide world. Its most accomplished agent is once again free to pursue matters of personal honor, unencumbered by obligations to Mossad, and indeed aided by that legendary organization.

Daniel Silva's early thrillers - both the Gabriel Allon series and the three Michael Osbourne novels - are among my all-time favorite reads. The Prince of Fire is one of the two best thrillers I've ever read, and The Unlikely Spy is a richly researched nail-biter set in WWII London. But the last two Gabriel Allon books were below Silva's usual standard, far below. The Defector is better than those, but not up to the early work. There's very little of Italy here - or any other setting -- and virtually no art restoration, and I'm exceedingly sad to see that Silva is close to churning out a Pattersonesque formula thriller.

Here we go:

Part 1: something bad happens to someone Gabriel knows

Part 2: Gabriel assembles a team and mounts a complex plan to fix things (being a fan of planning, I like this part best, but it was sadly diminished here)

Part 3: Gabriel or Shamron forces the US or the UK to carry the can

Part 4: lots of blood; and more blood

Part 5: Gabriel and his support staff tie up loose ends with yet more blood

No surprises here, although Silva does forego Gabriel's seemingly obligatory trip to St Peters.

Any writer can have an off year, but this makes three off years for Silva. What's up with that?

One possible answer is that he's working from his files, rather than doing research. I wouldn't care, were Silva not so addicted to the use of the particular. Without research, the details suffer, of course. It doesn't really matter that the Queens Lane Coffee House has regular panes, not latticed windows or that Rectory Road runs uphill from the Cowley Road, but it does matter that Grigori is in the Harrow Road at 6:12 pm, planning to be at St George's Bloomsbury at 6:30 on a rainy January night in a plot where every minute is supposed to be significant. Unless he is The Winged Defector, there's no chance. (And that church, BTW, is not in New Oxford St, but Bloomsbury Row.)

OK, who cares? Well, if the rest of the book were more carefully put together, I wouldn't. But if a writer says that place and time are important, then he needs to be careful with both. Or simply make up everything.

The material about the Great Terror reads like an add-on. Other than those ominous references to parallel depressions in the earth, you'll never see this coming: it arises from neither the plot nor the characters. Yes, Ivan Kharkov is hastily endowed with a Stalin fixation, but that's clearly an afterthought. Silva needed something ideological to balance the body-count, so we get a quick lecture on Stalinist executions. The Afterword makes the case better than does the narrative, but with some more attention to character or plot lines, Silva could have had it both ways.

Sadly, his interest in anyone but Gabriel diminishes with each novel, it seems. And, as another reviewer points out, even Gabriel fails to develop internally.

When James Patterson runs out of plots, he has A Serial Killer Go After Alex Cross's Family. [!!!] It works every time, judging from sales, and that appears to be what Mr Silva going for.

One of the hardest things to sustain in a long series is a plausible threat. This is why so many series' feature the police or private detectives. Threats are their business. Surely the State of Israel hasn't run out of enemies, so why Silva insists on making the threat personal is, perhaps, the biggest mystery here.

Still, a bad-ish Silva is better than most things you can pick up to read on a hot summer's night. The Defector is better than the last two in this series, and the tension is ferocious for the last 150 pages, so enjoy.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "By way of deception, thou shalt do war.", August 19, 2009
Daniel Silva's "The Defector" is a sequel to "Moscow Rules," in which superspy Gabriel Allon and his team attempted to outsmart the sadistic Russian oligarch, Ivan Kharkov, with the help of Kharkov's disaffected wife, Elena. Kharkov, a former KGB agent, is a ruthless arms dealer who foments violence all over the world for profit. Of late, Allon has been living a placid life in an Italian villa under an assumed name along with his new wife, Chiara. He spends much of his time restoring priceless works of art for the Vatican. Unfortunately, his tranquil existence is rudely disrupted when Colonel Grigori Bulganov, former member of the Russian Federal Security Service and a defector to the west, suddenly disappears from London. Did Bulganov willingly return to Moscow to resume his old life? Allon, who knew the man well, firmly believes that this is an unlikely scenario, since Grigori not only hated the new Russia, but was also enjoying his life as a celebrity dissident. Gabriel fears that Kharkov must have orchestrated Grigori's abduction for reasons that will soon become apparent. When another key person vanishes, Allon, with the help of his former superior and advisor, eighty-year old Ari Shamron, as well as other poweful spymasters from England and America, arranges a complex extraction on Russian soil. If his plan should go awry, it could cost quite a few Jewish lives.

This is not one of Silva's finest efforts. Too much of this four-hundred and sixty-page novel is devoted to endless exposition, in which the author rehashes events from "Moscow Rules" and other earlier books. "The Defector" is almost entirely plot driven and populated by one-dimensional characters. The over-the-top scenes of torture and violence and the unimaginative dialogue do not help matters, nor does such hackneyed prose as "Blood was going to flow. And men were going to die." This is unchallenging and unoriginal action thriller in which Silva has little to say that he has not said before more eloquently. "The Defector" lacks the emotional heft, wrenching ethical dilemmas, and electrifying confrontations that have, in the past, made Silva's books so spellbinding.
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59 of 75 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The same old thing, August 4, 2009
By 
David Abramowitz (Charleston, WV United States) - See all my reviews
I have read all of Silva's books, and I enjoy his writing style. However, he is starting to get boring and is going down the same path as Grisham turning out books as fast as possible to make a buck.

The Defector is the same old plot. Gabriel Allon is the reluctant spy who must come out of retirement to fight evil. Has occasional clashes with Shamron, his Israeli handler, who convinces him to go after the enemy. No surprises. Always happy ending.

Silva is a wonderful author. It's a shame he doesn't put much thought into his newer novels. I'll think twice about buying the next one.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing after MOSCOW RULES, August 3, 2009
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Whereas MOSCOW RULES brings us fresh storylines and develops the
main characters with a flair for which Silva is known, this title
gets bogged down in certain areas, primarily due to the fact that
the author relies too much upon "wasting" one character after
another in a grim parade of Russian creeps who dare to cross Allon or interrupt his vendetta agendas in any one of many
European countries.
The violence is gratuitous and grounds for so many executions
are too superficial to be taken seriously by an attentive reader.
A hero with the gifts ascribed to Allon, the restorer of canvas
masterpieces and close buddy of the Pope, should be much more than a slick assassin. He's sensitive and loyal enough to his wife and friends for sure. But his bloodthirsty side feels like
nothing deeper than hits ordered wholesale by the likes of Tony
Soprano. I expected much more depth, more reasoning, more internal conflict and dialog. Not just one murder after another.
Better luck next time, Mr. Silva.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There's a lot of good and bad in all of us, even heros, December 8, 2009
By 
Lance (Planet Earth) - See all my reviews
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I first discovered Daniel Silva, when I read his bio on Amazon. It was interesting enough to cause me to purchase the Secret Servant. It was the novel that introduced me to not only Gabriel Allon, but Uzi Navot and and Ari Shamron as well. In my opinion it is the composite of these three charcters that makes the Allon series of books much much more then an exciting story of adventure, peril and intrigue.
I purchased The Defector from Amazon,pre publication,without the benefit of many reviews on the basis of my enjoyment of the Secret Servant. I was not disappointed.
The Defector, even though it contains references and characters from a previous book (Moscow Rules)stands on it own. The plot is full of enough twists, turns and cliff hangers,to cause most readers to stay up long past their bedtimes so as to prevent a restless night. For the most part the action is believable, and sometimes the good guys lose (welcome to the real world). It is definitely in the category of continuous read.
But what sets it apart from most books of this genre is the character development of Isreal's answer to the Three Musketeers, and their never ending angst over the age old question, "Do the ends justify the means?". I suspect after reading this book, you may well have to deal with your own angst.
I enjoyed this book so much, I immediately bought two more of the series from Amazon.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I am sad to say, Skip this one, December 22, 2010
I have read every Daniel Silva book written (except for the latest). Each and every time, I've been at least satisfied with the experience. However, this is the one that puts me on notice that maybe, just maybe, Silva is now reaching that point of boredom, same old, repetition and just plain old unbelievable.

In my younger days, I used to watch a Saturday morning serial called Fury - if you are old enough, you'll remember because you were probably watching also. The stories brought the main characters to the edge of disaster and then miraculously, they were saved Saturday after Saturday after Saturday. Switch Gabriel Allon for the horse Fury, and we have a repeat of my favorite show. However, 45 years later, I can't take it any more. There are just too many scenes in this book where artistic license took over the possibility of reality.

I am not going to continue to brow beat this one as Silva has served up a very good series for a very long time.

Cannot recommend that even a Silva fan read this one.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's okay, but I feel like I've read this before, August 9, 2009
By 
Thriller Fan (Las Vegas, NV United States) - See all my reviews
I love Gabriel Allon, however these books are becoming repetitious, giving him the same conflicts to face and forcing him to use the same methods of resolution. I feel like I've read this plot before in Silva's previous books. As another reviewer commented, some of the pages of this book could be interchanged with another of Silva's and you wouldn't be able to tell the difference. I hate to say that this book is predictable, but it's close.

Gabriel Allon is a smart enough character to find new ways of dealing with the bad guys. There shouldn't be a formula, i.e. the opening death of someone who affects Gabriel, the training or usage of a novice non-spy, inserting him/her into danger, then capturing that bad guy or interrogating him for the next bad guy... I've read it before at least twice that I can remember. ****Spoiler**** Not to mention the Messenger-like ending in which the supervillain is taken down in one chapter -- far too neatly after a book's worth of angst and planning.

And this may seem a strange criticism since I love the character of Gabriel Allon so much -- but why is he the center of the world's universe? Why do the most important figures in the world fall all over each other to do what they can for him and engage in corny exchanges like this:

"Trouble in the woods outside Moscow." (spoken by the President referring to Allon in the field).

"Anything we can do?"

"Pray."

That part made me cringe. I was embarrassed for the President, being forced to say that.

Here's hoping the next Allon novel has an original plot and Gabriel steps out of his formula. I truly enjoy him, but I think he's being wasted.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An Eye for an Eye for an Eye for an Eye ..., August 28, 2009
By 
Ray Daniels (Wandering the USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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Geographically vivid and tightly written with a non-stop action sequence that features killing, killing and more killing. If close-quarters killing is your thing, then you'll have to read this one. Unfortunately it lacks intellectually stimulating cat-and-mouse intrigue and the moral contemplation found in some spy stories. Instead it stands unashamedly on the Old Testament concept of an eye for eye as the unquestioned justification for murder after murder--oh and some gruesome torture too. Finally, it fails to explore the technology or methods of conflict in any revealing or informative way.

I have long been a reader of spy and military literature and have found various reasons to enjoy such works in the past, but by mid-way through this one I was bored. Even the final twist (and loss) was predictable. If it makes you feel good to consider today's raucous world scene from the perspective of the team that always wins (no matter what the cost) then you'll likely enjoy this work. Otherwise, give it a pass.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Kill them all," she said., February 6, 2011
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That's Chiara, Gabriel's wife, speaking on Page 470. "The Defector" a very good story, with lots of tension, and - happily -- with a minimum number of characters and sub-plots. Silva seems to write Russian women better than he does Russian men, but he has yet to give Gabriel's new wife Chiara a credible personality, such a pity.

This story is light years better than "Moscow Rules," the previous story on which this one depends.

Increasingly, an inordinate amount of words are devoted to bringing the reader up-to-date on the background of the 8 or 9 previous novels featuring Gabriel Allon, Israeli uber-assassin. It's sort of necessary for context, but the summaries, book-by-further-book, become cookie-cutter.

There are 2 plot "errors" in this otherwise quite superb and very well-written high-tension, high action story.

1. The abduction of the female Israeli secret service agent, resulting from an uncharacteristic lapse in Israeli security, wouldn't have happened even in fiction the way it did. A poorly executed plot feature, though essential for the bigger storyline. It simply wasn't a very creative plot feature.

2. The long drawn-out (and so pitifully predicable) conversation at the remote Russian dacha with the bad guy, Ivan, who uncharacteristically allows the "literary distraction," thus giving the good guys time to come to the rescue. I'm so over these "troops-riding-in-at-the-last-minute" shticks! Surely, Silva is more creative than this. He got the players into the jam with abandon; let's see him get them out without phoniness!

Silva's apology at the end of the story, reminding us that the book is entertainment and fiction, falls on deaf ears. His politics, world view and sympathies show on every page. The interpretation of actual history reviewed ad nauseam here and in other books are flawed and totally skewed - necessary, I suppose, for the fictional characters to have motivation and purpose. As a result of the historical context and Gabriel's increasingly big history as an assassin, every episode and every story is built upon "personal" revenge and motivation. Rarely is there anything more philosophically over-arching or to give these characters raison de entre. Silva has in a sense invented a new genre: Revenge Thrillers.

Suggestion: let's retire Shamron. He is no longer useful to any Allon series stories. He's deadweight. Maybe in the next one, there could be a nice funeral for the old man?

Oh yes, one minor point. The scene in Upstate New York, where we see Elena's two children trying to build a snowman in sub-zero snowy cold, can't be done. No one can make a snowman in such temperatures. It's a small mistake, but a little embarrassing.

For all my criticism, technically I thought this book was quite excellent. Many times throughout the story, it becomes a genuine page-turner, first class. The writing is excellent. The only problems (as is usual with books like these) are flaws in the plot structure - the concocted "rescues" that stretch even fictional believability.

It's a very solid 4 on the Amazon scale.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and suspenseful but somewhat unconvincing, October 19, 2009
By 
This spy thriller has two big things going for it. It is skillful escapist entertainment and you will read it with interest until the finale. Also, it gives you some idea of what it is like to live in Russia and the character of its leadership. It will also give you some understanding of why living in Russia is such a miserable experience for the average, decent Russian. But Daniel Silva is no John le Carre, not by a mile.
As I read the first chapters I felt the hero of the novel, Israeli assassin and art restorer Gabriel Allon, was something of a cipher, someone to move the plot along. Maybe Silva fleshed him out in earlier novels and felt no need to do it here. Secondly, there are parts in the plot that, seem implausible. For example, near the end of the novel, Allon, who is Israel's top secret agent, decides to kill everyone who participated in the kidnapping of his friend, a Russian defector who once saved his life. So Allon's team fans out across Europe and soon there are 11 corpses. I think it would not be that easy to find out who they were, where they were and how to kill them. Now we know that in real life the Mossad was given the task of killing the Black September terrorists but things did not go smoothly. Several innocent people were killed because the Mossad had faulty information and there also was some "collateral damage" And not everybody was caught. I doubt very much the prime minister of Israel would sanction Allon's project. After all the novel takes place in 2009 and there are more pressing issues involving Israel's national security to have him send his best assassins on a mission of revenge involving a Russian defector.. The finale also was not convincing. Stop reading here if you don't want a spoiler but you will guess anyway as you read that Allon will eventually kill the Russian arms dealer. How does he do it? Well, the oligarch loves St. Tropez and Allon's team finds out he will attend a riotous party in a St. Tropez restaurant. While the oligarch is at the party he gets a phone call and steps outside the restaurant because there is too much noise inside. There on the street sitting on a motorcycle is our hero with his Glock. Bang, bang, and Russia's most evil man is dead. Supermensh then drives off. Piece of cake. At one point in the novel the head of Israel's secret agents tells the Russian ambassador that his people better watch out because if the Israelis get mad enough they will kill all of Russia's KGB agents (now with a new acronym). Wow! David and Goliath. Allon's team piles up some 30 bodies in the course of the novel and I would have liked to have a page or two on the morality of it all. After all, these guys are educated, smart and brave.Have they never thought of Moses and Mt. Sinai and "Thou shalt not kill"? How do they justify their actions? Is the real commandment an eye for an eye? The only problem with this is that the violence will never end. It will go on forever.
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The Defector (Gabriel Allon Novels)
The Defector (Gabriel Allon Novels) by Daniel Silva (Hardcover - July 21, 2009)
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