Moscow Rules is the eight Gabriel Allon book. Where the first seven books dealt with Arab terrorists, and tracking down deadly criminals protecting old World War II era and Nazi-related secrets, this book ventures into the world of the new Russian Mafia. Allon’s background is that he was part of the original team chosen by the Israeli secret service to track down the Munich terrorists of the 1972 Olympic Games. A promising young painter, he was recruited by Ari Shamron, director of the Israeli secret service, because of his fluent European German and his calm steady nerves. Allon’s cover, and passionate profession when not on assignment, is as a fine art restorer. His world is restoring paintings and ancient murals of Michelangelo, Caravaggio, and all the great artists of Western culture.
In Moscow Rules, a journalist’s death leads, Allon to Moscow where he encounters a new Russia, glittering with symbols of conspicuous wealth, luxury cars and beautiful women, and more. Here Allon must track down the urgent message the dead journalist tried to get to Allon, a warning of impending terror. This leads the Israeli agent to Ivan Kharkov, a former KGB agent who has built a global investment empire on the rubble of the old Soviet Union. And he is the man responsible for the journalist’s death. Allon learns too, that Kharkov is involved in arms dealing, and one critical sale of Russia’s latest weaponry to Al Qaeda is about to take place; but when and where are not yet established. Failure to interrupt the sale would lead to the most lethal terrorist attack since 9/11. This discovery comes with a threat to his life that also almost leaves him imprisoned in Russia by the FSB, Russia’s new KGB headquartered out of the Kremlin.
Once back in Israel, Allon remains steadfast to get Kharkov who now vacationing in his luxury villa in San Tropez. Allon learns that Kharkov’s wife, Elena, the original source of the information leak, loves the paintings of Mary Cassatt, and Allon creates a forgery of one of her paintings as a method to get close to her and Kharkov’s household.
Elena’s expert eye, however, spots the forgery, but the dialog has begun with Allon’s team, who share information about her husband’s extensive ruthless dealings which her conscience cannot ignore. She ultimately decides to help Allon. The perils are high as he strives to get her and her children out of Kharkov’s tight security and to safety as the team avert the imminent terror threat. But Kharkov is not through yet, nor is his pungent determination to get revenge. We see him again in the following novel, The Defector.
I especially enjoyed this book and The Defector because of its depiction of a world I have not seen much of – the new Russia, and the consequences of the Wild West spirit of no rules for the ambitious ruthless new age of gangster-businessmen billionaires.
All of Daniel Silva’s Allon books have a sense of tension, heart, conscience, adventure, humor and soul that I find well delivered with a sense of integrity to his dedicated craftsmanship in these franchise novels. I’ve read a number of other authors who, after establishing their story and character franchise equation after three or four installments that simply appear to be too lazy to go the distance to deliver a quality piece of writing. Silva sweats the details.