The Rembrandt Affair – Daniel Silva (2010)
Review by Alison Doherty
Determined to sever his ties with the Office, Gabriel Allon has retreated to the windswept cliffs of Cornwall with his beautiful Venetian-born wife, Chiara. But once again his seclusion is interrupted by a visitor from his tangled past: the endearing eccentric London art dealer Julian Isherwood. As usual, Isherwood has a problem. And it is one only Gabriel can solve. In the ancient English city of Glastonbury, an art restorer has been brutally murdered and a long-lost portrait by Rembrandt mysteriously stolen. Despite his reluctance, Gabriel is persuaded to use his unique skills to search for the painting and those responsible for the crime. But as he painstakingly follows a trail of clues leading from Amsterdam to Buenos Aires and, finally, to a villa on the graceful shores of Lake Geneva, Gabriel will once again be drawn into a world he thought he had left behind forever, and will come face-to-face with a remarkable cast of characters: a glamorous London journalist who is determined to undo the worst mistake of her career,, an elusive master art thief who is burdened by a conscience, and a powerful Swiss billionaire who is known for his good deeds but may just be behind one of the greatest threats facing the world.
I first met the main character, Gabriel Allon, in a hole-in-the-wall bookstore in downtown Minneapolis. My friends and I had wandered to the Minneapolis Institute of Art trying to escape a boiling hot summer afternoon, and on the way back we ducked into this little shop. Ever since then, I pick up copies of Daniel Silva’s books wherever I can, including The Rembrandt Affair.
Filled with colorful characters and a whirlwind journey across several countries, this book is the perfect escapist fiction. As Gabriel is nudged out of his safe retreat and into a world of bad guys with morals and good guys with dark secrets, the power of history and hidden things to impact generation after generation is revealed. The reader is swept into the peril the characters face, and struggles with the same questions of morality, justified behavior, and inconvenient conscience as they do. Escapist fiction it may be, but Silva does not allow any easy answers. He doesn’t skimp on realities, and even as his characters delve deeply into some of the most tragic and secret history in the world, so the reader is invited into the tragic and secret history hidden in the hearts and minds of the characters.
A fascinating blend of mystery, intrigue, history, art, and human emotion, The Rembrandt Affair takes readers on an adventure befitting the book’s length. Though it is part of an extensive series, enough background is given to allow a reader to pick it up and not feel at all lost. For the reader troubled by any sense of wanderlust whatsoever, the cities described so intimately will call irresistibly. The Rembrandt Affair is adventurous thrill, but also a solid reminder that the truth is a powerful thing, and regardless of how much we may wish to escape it, our past is entangled deeply with the very essence of who we are. I highly recommend The Rembrandt Affair to lovers of thrillers and adventures – but also to those who have a yearning, as Gabriel does, for healing and restoration.