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The Defector (Gabriel Allon Novels) Hardcover – July 21, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 675 customer reviews
Book 9 of 15 in the Gabriel Allon Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best of the Month, July 2009: "If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared." The ninth book in Daniel Silva's smart, fast-paced series about enigmatic assassin and art restorer Gabriel Allon begins with an epigraph courtesy of Machiavelli. A fitting start to a twisty spy thriller chock full of clandestine meetings, tenuous alliances, and ruthless men. The beauty of Silva's series is that it is easy on acronyms and byzantine operations (so you don't have to be a spy novel aficionado to enjoy it), and each book gives you a discreet rundown on familiar characters and back-stories (so you don't have to start at the beginning). In The Defector, the disappearance of Russian defector and dissident Grigori Bulganov draws Gabriel out of semi-retirement and into the path of Ivan Kharkov, the former KGB agent and Russian oligarch from Moscow Rules. Exotic locales, intriguing characters, and a breakneck pace make for a riveting summer read. -- Daphne Durham

Amazon Exclusive Essay: Daniel Silva on Gabriel Allon and the "Accidental Series"

Writers tend to be solitary creatures. We toil alone for months on end, then, once a year, we emerge from our dens to publish a book. It can be a daunting experience, especially for someone like me, who is not gregarious and outgoing by nature. But there is one aspect of promotion I truly love: meeting my readers and answering their questions. During each stop on my book tour, I reserve the bulk of my time for a lively conversation with the audience. I learn much from these encounters-indeed, some of the comments are so insightful they take my breath away. There is one question I am asked each night without fail, and it remains my favorite: "How in the world did you ever think of Gabriel Allon?" The answer is complicated. In one sense, he was the result of a long, character-construction process. In another, he was a bolt from the blue. I'll try to explain.

In 1999, after publishing The Marching Season, the second book in the Michael Osbourne series, I decided it was time for a change. We were nearing the end of the Clinton administration, and the president was about to embark on a last-ditch effort to bring peace to the Middle East. I had the broad outlines of a story in mind: a retired Israeli assassin is summoned from retirement to track down a Palestinian terrorist bent on destroying the Oslo peace process. I thought long and hard before giving the Israeli a name. I wanted it to be biblical, like my own, and to be heavy with symbolism. I finally decided to name him after the archangel Gabriel. As for his family name, I chose something short and simple: Allon, which means "oak tree" in Hebrew. I liked the image it conveyed. Gabriel Allon: God's angel of vengeance, solid as an oak.

Gabriel's professional résumé-the operations he had carried out-came quickly. But what about his other side? What did he like to do in his spare time? What was his cover? I knew I wanted something distinct. Something memorable. Something that would, in many respects, be the dominant attribute of his character. I spent many frustrating days mulling over and rejecting possibilities. Then, while walking along one of Georgetown's famous redbrick sidewalks, my wife, Jamie, reminded me that we had a dinner date that evening at the home of David Bull, a man regarded as one of the finest art restorers in the world. I stopped dead in my tracks and raised my hands toward the heavens. Gabriel Allon was complete. He was going to be an art restorer, and a very good one at that.

Over my objections, the book was entitled The Kill Artist and it would go on to become a New York Times bestseller. It was not, however, supposed to be the first book in a long-running series. But once again, fate intervened. In 2000, after moving to G.P. Putnam & Sons, my new publishers asked me what I was working on. When I mumbled something about having whittled it down to two or three options, they offered their first piece of advice. They really didn't care what it was about, they just wanted one thing: Gabriel Allon.

I then spent the next several minutes listing all the reasons why Gabriel, now regarded as one of the most compelling and successful continuing characters in the mystery-thriller genre, should never appear in a second book. I had conceived him as a "one off" character, meaning he would be featured in one story and then ride into the sunset. I also thought he was too melancholy and withdrawn to build a series around, and, at nearly fifty years of age, perhaps a bit too old as well. My biggest concern, however, had to do with his nationality and religion. I thought there was far too much opposition to Israel in the world-and far too much raw anti-Semitism-for an Israeli continuing character ever to be successful in the long term.

My new publishers thought otherwise, and told me so. Because Gabriel lived in Europe and could pass as German or Italian, they believed he came across as more "international" than Israeli. But what they really liked was Gabriel's other job: art restoration. They found the two opposing sides of his character-destroyer and healer-fascinating. What's more, they believed he would stand alone on the literary landscape. There were lots of CIA officers running around saving the world, they argued, but no former Israeli assassins who spent their spare time restoring Bellini altarpieces.

The more they talked, the more I could see their point. I told them I had an idea for a story involving Nazi art looting during the Second World War and the scandalous activities of Swiss banks. "Write it with Gabriel Allon," they said, "and we promise it will be your biggest-selling book yet." Eventually, the book would be called The English Assassin, and, just as Putnam predicted, it sold twice as many copies as its predecessor. Oddly enough, when it came time to write the next book, I still wasn't convinced it should be another Gabriel novel. Though it seems difficult to imagine now, I actually conceived the plot of The Confessor without him in mind. Fortunately, my editor, Neil Nyren, saved me from myself. The book landed at #5 on the New York Times bestseller list and received some of the warmest reviews of my career. After that, a series was truly born.

I am often asked whether it is necessary to read the novels in sequence. The answer is no, but it probably doesn't hurt, either. For the record, the order of publication is The Kill Artist, The English Assassin, The Confessor, A Death in Vienna, Prince of Fire, The Messenger, The Secret Servant, and Moscow Rules, my first #1 New York Times bestseller. The Defector pits Gabriel in a final, dramatic confrontation with the Russian oligarch and arms dealer Ivan Kharkov, and I have been told it far surpasses anything that has come before it in the series. And to think that, if I'd had my way, only one Gabriel Allon book would have been written. I remain convinced, however, that had I set out in the beginning to create him as a continuing character, I would surely have failed. I have always believed in the power of serendipity. Art, like life, rarely goes according to plan. Gabriel Allon is proof of that.


"The perfect book."—Associated Press

"Grips its reader by the throat like a rampant Rottweiler and never, ever lets go…A fabulous thriller."—Daily Mail (UK)

"The action roars along, touching down in both glamorous settings and godforsaken outposts…For readers who crave both deft characterization and old-fashioned, spy-novel action."—Booklist

"The Defector proves that of those writing spy novels today, Daniel Silva is quite simply the best."—Kansas City Star

"A gripping tale of bloody vengeance…An assassin with soul."—Library Journal

"Gabriel Allon has been and continues to be one of the most fascinating espionage agents for years in perhaps the best thriller series on the market in the past decade."—Midwest Book Review --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Gabriel Allon Novels
  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult; 1 edition (July 21, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399155686
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399155680
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.7 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (675 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #378,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Kindle Edition
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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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