“Bring me the file on The Leopard.”
The Leopard, an assassin who figures in a number of Silva novels, becomes a major player in this third Gabriel Allon novel, about the passive involvement of the Vatican in the Holocaust and its subsequent denial of all responsibility. Basing the novel on research by scholars like Susan Zuccotti (whom Silva credits in his acknowledgments) into the secret connections between factions within the Catholic Church and the Third Reich, Silva creates a chilling and utterly compelling story about the reasons that the Vatican might have feared the Jews were a threat to its own power and wanted to prevent the ultimate establishment of an Israeli homeland.
Gabriel Allon is an assassin for the Israeli Mossad (in his secret life) and a talented restorer of paintings and sculptures in Venice, often for the Vatican (in his public life as Mario Delvecchio). He is working in Venice when he receives word that Ben Stern, the son of his Israeli mentor Ari Shamron, has been murdered in Munich while researching a book. The subject of his book is so secret that not even his Munich university department head knows what it is. Gabriel leaves Venice for Munich and discovers nothing, though phone records suggest that Ben has been investigating a secret church conference that took place at a convent in Brenzone, Italy, during the Holocaust.
Further investigation brings Allon into contact with members of Crux Vera, an ultra-conservative organization within the church, with their leaders well entrenched in positions of power close to the Pope. These must publicly hide their involvement because the new, liberal Pope Paul VII is anxious for transparency and reconciliation with the Jews. When the Pope decides to attend a meeting with the head of a Rome synagogue to express his regrets for any Vatican failures in responding to the Holocaust, the Crux Vera goes into action, contacting The Leopard to be sure that their involvement is never discovered.
Silva’s use of recent research to give veracity to the plot and his sensitivity to the various political influences at play create incredible tension. Allon, Shamron, and the supporting characters, many of them Catholic church luminaries, come to life and develop as the action evolves. Allon is a sympathetic protagonist, despite his violent actions to protect the interests of the Israelis, and his sense of honor shines through, even as he kills his enemies with seeming impunity. Ultimately, Silva creates a fascinating historical atmosphere and fills his novel with accurate historical research showing the complicity of some church luminaries to prevent the establishment of a Jewish homeland.
Notes: The author’s photo appears on Library Thing: http://www.librarything.com/author/silvadaniel
His website is here: http://www.danielsilvabooks.com/content/index.asp