The restorer raised his magnifying visor and switched off the bank of fluorescent lights. He waited for his eyes to adjust to the murkiness of evening in the cathedral; then he inspected a tiny portion of the painting just below an arrow wound on the leg of Saint Stephen. ...
- The KILL ARTIST by Daniel Silva
So begins The KILL ARTIST (2000), Daniel Silva's fourth novel, the first in the Gabriel Allon series.
GABRIEL ALLON is back to the solitary life he requires, the life of the artist tending to great works of art injured in never-ending wars of commerce, transcultural migrations, and time. He bandages the detritus of clumsy repairs, incompetent preservations and restorations, even overpaintings of classic works by the original artists in response to client patrons who could not bear others seeing his portraits of them. Allon finds meaning in peeling back layers of time, varnish, and the dust of timeless centuries. It is more rational and productive than his professional past of dark operations for the state of Israel, the up-close assassinations of ruthless terrorists, the cycle of personal vengeance that resulted in the death of his daughter, the damaging of his wife, the self-imposed exile from life, professional work, and any meaningful connections with another woman, let alone love.
He is alive in technical terms only. His heart beats. His mind turns. He eats, drinks, sleeps, sails, and restores great paintings. This is the life of Gabriel Allon.
Until he is called back to the service of his mentor, uncle, grandfather, boss, confessor, protector and tormentor, Ali Shamron, director of the Office. Gabriel is drawn back from his anonymous life as a recluse art restorer for one important mission, a secret sanction, the elimination of the terrorist Tariq before he can hurt Israel on the eve of its historic signing of a treaty with the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat.
Silva's storytelling makes a contract with his reader in the first sentence and honors that contract through nearly 500 pages with hardly a false note, a rash edit, or errant verb.