Publication Date: July 17, 2012
In The Fallen Angel by Daniel Silva, Gabriel Allon is called to the Vatican to restore a Caravaggio when a woman kills herself in St. Peter’s Basilica. Monsignor Luigi Donati, secretary to His Holiness Pope Paul VII, believes that her death is suspicious and, not wishing a scandal for the Vatican, asks Allon to investigate. The story, as Daniel Silva’s tales do, take us deep into a world of conspiracy and art theft to uncover the truth of why someone would want a Vatican antiquity specialist dead — and who hopes to kill Allon as well.
I have long been a fan of Daniel Silva. He’s a hometown boy. Many people believe him to be from California, where he grew up, but he is actually Michigan-born. Even so, his last few Allon novels have had me slipping away. They felt like lectures in political and geo-global responsibility. Bad thing? Overall not really; they felt that sort of diatribe that demeans the reader. Trepidation led the way intoThe Fallen Angel. This was the novel where we would either part ways or be back on track. We’re back on track.
Don’t get me wrong, Gabriel Allon is social commentary onto himself. He’s an Israeli spy, mostly retired, with the deep scars of his agency and what he’s done in his career blazing in every aspect of his existence. A point I found interesting in this novel is that we can age Allon pretty specifically — his first OP was in 1972 as a late teen. Minimally, he’s 58 if we’re traveling in real time — and, from the history that Silva painstakingly relates, it can be believed we are. Like Barry Eisler’s character, John Rain, Allon simply reads a lot younger. Much is made in this novel about his age, which makes me wonder if Silva is on his way out of this series. He hasn’t announced such a move and I hope he doesn’t for a long while.
A number of my fellow readers dislike Chiara intensely. Not something with which I agree but in The Fallen Angel she does come off as whiny and needy. The night before Allon leaves for an OP, she asks if he loves her and then asks him to show her sexually that he does. Could be that this reader is older but that scene provoked the question, “How young is this chick?” We’re told she’s 30 years younger — minimally. 28? Younger? Still, sorry friends, she’s so minimal within the series, that sort of behavior will roll off of this reader.
One of my friends, who is also reading this book, is going to Italy within a few months. We joked that she could follow the trail of Allon but, really, she could. All of Silva’s settings are so ruthlessly researched that she could walk to his apartment and find a building as described using the route from the Vatican. At one point in the novel, Allon stays at a second-rate hotel in St. Moritz. I did a Google search for giggles and it exists! Not that, if they read Allon, they’d be thrilled with the description but they are there. How cool is that? To have that sense of place when writing must be phenomenally difficult and yet Silva does his homework in order to pull it off for the reader.
In tone, The Fallen Angel is a change of pace for the series. Despite the vast conspiracy as per usual with Allon, the tone feels almost homey in an average mystery sense. For 30% of the novel, we have Gabriel living a life where he walks home with his wife from a party. In Gabriel style, walking home is never just walking home but the flow is comfortable. Silva said, “Would I ever let you down?”
Is The Fallen Angel the best thing I’ve ever read? No. Reading this series is a commitment, but it’s one worth making. I will be reading the next Allon novel.
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