Tuesday, December 7, 2021

The Rembrandt Affair



by Daniel Silva

Published by G. P. Putnam, New York 2010

The economy was in a downward spiral. Desperate times called for desperate measures. In times like these, new means of accretion of wealth had to be devised to feed the greed of the world’s upper echelon. So it is that the profession of stolen art made a comeback. Relinquishing the museums around the world of their most celebrated paintings was not only lucrative, it was relatively easy. The art thieves were artists in their own right. The heists took place often and around the globe. No traces, no demand for ransom. They simply showed up adorned on the walls of magnificent domiciles of beaurocrates and recluse millionaires around the world. And sometimes the reverse was true. The rich and famous were now ready to sell the stolen art back to museums to save their empires.

Christopher Liddell didn’t ask questions. He simply did his job. He restored the paintings of some of the most famous pieces of art in the world–and he was in love. In love with the seductive face behind the grime and varnish she suffered from years of neglect. He knew he had the power to bring her back to life. She had come to him silently in the night. After he restored her to her natural beauty, she was to be sold for a bargain price of forty-five million dollars. Liddell did not ask how his client, Julian Isherwood had come in possession of the Rembrandt, The Portrait of a Young Woman. But he knew it was probably worth a great deal more than the going price.

Julian Isherwood first heard about the mysterious murder of Christopher Liddell from an unseemly art dealer that relished in the gossip of the art dealers and restorers of Glastonbury. Julian tried to suppress his shock but his fears were confirmed that Liddell had been murdered and the painting had been stolen. His profession as an art dealer had taken on a life of back street “don’t ask-don’t tell” arm’s-length transactions. His benefactor would be less than understanding when he learned that his painting was missing. It would mean financial ruin for the man since it was his last resort for dwindling fortune. Unless Julian could find the painting or ante up forty-five million dollars, he was surely dead. Isherwood only knew one person to turn to.

Gabriel Allon was living a new life. He dabbled in art restoration and walked the cliffs of The Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall, not far from London, with his beautiful Venetian wife. But his work as an Israeli agent and assassin would not let him rest. When old friend and comrade-in-arms, Julian Isherwood pleaded upon him to find the lost painting, Allon was thrown back in to world he was trying to escape. To find the painting, he had to start at the beginning and trace its history through the years. Surprising revelations depict multiple plots that reveal the layers of greed that went back to Holland and the atrocities perpetrated against the Jewish people during the Holocaust, the involvement of the Swiss government to harbor war criminals and to reach into the lives of the wealthy still today.

Author Daniel Silva is extraordinary in his depiction of the underworld life of the rich and famous and the lengths they will go to in order secure their prosperity. Written with intellect and a profound ability to bring the characters to life, we are drawn to the past as well as the future. It would take three countries: the United States, Great Britain, and Israel, along with an intricate team of colorful personalities to try to return the beguiling portrait to its rightful owner and secure the free world from another Holocaust of similar, if not greater, proportion. This is espionage at its best. It is not blood thirsty with violent details, but rather exposes the horrific deeds with artistic flare and convincing dialogue. I highly recommend this book for those that thrill at compelling plots and surprising conclusions. You can read other escapades of Gabriel Allon in Silva’s other books with different locations, different plots, but the same intriguing characters of spy thrillers.

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