Fallen Angel (Silva)

The Fallen Angel
Daniel Silva, 2012
405 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780062073129

After narrowly surviving his last operation, Gabriel Allon, the wayward son of Israeli intelligence, has taken refuge behind the walls of the Vatican, where he is restoring one of Caravaggio's greatest masterpieces.

But early one morning he is summoned to St. Peter's Basilica by Monsignor Luigi Donati, the all-powerful private secretary to his Holiness Pope Paul VII; the body of a beautiful woman lies broken beneath Michelangelo's magnificent dome. The Vatican police suspect suicide, though Gabriel believes otherwise.

So, it seems, does Donati. But the monsignor is fearful that a public inquiry might inflict another scandal on the Church, and so he calls upon Gabriel to quietly pursue the truth—with one caveat. "Rule number one at the Vatican," Donati said. "Don't ask too many questions."

Gabriel learns that the dead woman had uncovered a dangerous secret—a secret that threatens a global criminal enterprise that is looting timeless treasures of antiquity and selling them to the highest bidder. But there is more to this network than just greed. A mysterious operative is plotting an act of sabotage that will plunge the world into a conflict of apocalyptic proportions. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—November 30, 1959
Where—Michigan, USA
Currently—lives in Washington, D.C.

Daniel Silva was attending graduate school in San Francisco when United Press International offered him a temporary job covering the 1984 Democratic National Convention. Later that year, the wire service offered him full-time employment; he quit grad school and went to work for UPI—first in San Francisco, then in Washington, D.C., and finally as a Middle East Correspondent posted in Cairo. While covering the Iran-Iraq War in 1987, he met NBC correspondent Jamie Gangel. They married, and Silva returned to Washington to take a job with CNN.

Silva was still at CNN when, with the encouragement of his wife, he began work on his first novel, a WWII espionage thriller. Published in 1997, The Unlikely Spy became a surprise bestseller and garnered critical acclaim. ("Evocative.... Memorable..." said the Washington Post; "Briskly suspenseful," raved the New York Times). On the heels of this somewhat unexpected success, Silva quit his job to concentrate on writing.

Other books followed, all earning respectable reviews; but it was Silva's fourth novel that proved to be his big breakthrough. Featuring a world-famous art restorer and sometime Israeli agent named Gabriel Allon, The Kill Artist (2000) fired public imagination and soared to the top of the bestseller charts. Gabriel Allon has gone on to star in several sequels, and his creator has become one of our foremost novelists of espionage intrigue, earning comparisons to such genre superstars as John le Carre, Frederick Forsythe, and Robert Ludlum. Silva's books have been translated into more than 25 languages and have been published around the world. (From Barnes & Noble.)

Book Reviews
Daniel Silva’s The Fallen Angel soars with authenticity….The Fallen Angel delivers the goods….Riveting espionage adventures that have timely, real-world relevance.
Dallas-Fort Worth Star-Telegram

The Fallen Angel is a first-class spy mystery painted on a grand scale, appropriate because its protagonist, Gabriel Allon, is an expert art restorer; sometime friend of the Vatican; on-again, off-again intelligence agent for the Israeli government — and occasional assassin. If the novel has flaws, they lie in Silva’s intensive, relentless attention to detail. He made himself an expert on religion (Roman Catholic and Jewish), international espionage, European and Middle Eastern history and geography as well as other subjects. The details sometimes add excess baggage to the storytelling.Meticulously researched....The Fallen Angel is a first-class spy mystery painted on a grand scale.
Columbus Dispatch

The Fallen Angel is no conventional murder mystery; the plot's ramifications stretch back to Europe and the Middle East in shocking and violent ways. Silva is no purveyor of minimalism; his books have active plots and bold, dramatic themes. They cover a staggeringly wide range of subjects. In addition to murder and art restoration, "The Fallen Angel" dabbles in the antiquities trafficking trade, Vatican politics, organized crime, religious mythologies and histories, political realities and, of course, the growing threat of radical Islamic fundamentalism and its desire for the destruction of Israel.
Tulsa World

His past 12 books, all featuring enigmatic spy/art restorer Gabriel Allon, have kept Silva’s name high in the ranks; the latest, the Vatican-set The Fallen Angel, seems unlikely to reverse the trend.
Arizona Republic

It’s become almost obligatory for lovers of high level thrillers to read each new Daniel Silva novel as soon as it appears. With his by now trademark character, Gabriel Allon...Silva just about guarantees a couple of days of terrific entertainment.
NPR, All Things Considered

Another heart-pounding escapade of art restorer and Israeli intelligence legend Gabriel Allon gets masterful treatment.
AudioFile Magazine

Fast-paced action thriller from old hand Silva (Portrait of a Spy, 2001, etc.), whose hero Gabriel Allon returns in fine form. As Silva's legion of fans—including, it seems, every policy wonk inside the Beltway and Acela Corridor—knows, Gabriel is not just your ordinary spy. He's a capable assassin, for one thing, and a noted art restorer for another, which means that his adventures often find him in the presence of immortal works of art and bad guys who would put them to bad use. This newest whodunit is no exception: Gabriel's in the Vatican, working away at a Caravaggio, when he gets caught up in an anomalous scene—as a friendly Jesuit puts it with considerable understatement, "We have a problem." The problem is that another Vatican insider has gone splat on the mosaic floor, having fallen some distance from the dome. Did she jump, or was she pushed? Either way, as the victim's next of kin puts it, again with considerable understatement, "I'm afraid my sister left quite a mess." She did indeed, and straightening it up requires Gabriel to grapple with baddies in far-flung places around Europe and the Middle East. It would be spoiling things to go too deep into what he finds, but suffice it to say that things have been going missing from the Vatican's collections to fund a variety of nefarious activities directly and indirectly, including some ugly terrorism out Jerusalem way. But set Gabriel to scaling flights of Herodian stairs, and the mysteries fall into place—not least of them the location of a certain structure built for a certain deity by a certain biblical fellow. The plot's a hoot, but a believable one; think a confection by Umberto Eco as starring Jonathan Hemlock, or a Dan Brown yarn intelligently plotted and written, and you'll have a sense of what Silva is up to here. It's a grand entertainment to watch Silva putting Gabriel Allon's skills to work, whether shedding blood or daubing varnish—a top-notch thriller.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. Of what interest and significance is it that the story begins in St. Peter's "mighty Basilica," with the caretaker Niccolo Moretti?

2. Consider the detailed description of the painting Gabriel Allon is restoring, Caravaggio's The Deposition of Christ. (12) What does that choice add to the novel?

3. Caravaggisto Giacomo Benedetti suggests that part of The Deposition of Christ perhaps shouldn't be restored, (13) an opinion that foreshadows the larger issue of the handling of art and antiquities. What are the pros and cons of restoring aged art?

4. Not unlike the many artifacts and antiquities mentioned throughout the novel, Gabriel Allon is at times referred to as a "damaged" object himself, (13) and with "a damaged canvas of his own" (302). In what ways does this seem true and how is it important to his character?

5. Monsignor Luigi Donati is described as following the Machiavellian idea that "it is far better for a prince to be feared than loved" (19). In what ways is this appropriate or not to his responsibilities? Machiavelli is also named to describe the deal Gabriel Allon strikes with General Ferrari. (87) How is this similar or different?

6. On a number of occasions it is suggested that Monsignor Luigi Donati and Gabriel Allon, despite their obvious differences, are quite alike. (19) In what ways is this true and why do you think they have established such a close relationship?

7. At the Villa Giulia, Gabriel Allon realizes the Euphronios krater, "one of the greatest single pieces of art ever created," is kept where few people ever see it (89). Dr. Veronica Marchese later talks of getting many works from her husband's collection into museums. (118) What is the proper place for antiquities? Should they be privately held? Do countries of origin have a rightful claim to them?

8. The Euphronios krater depicts "Sarpedon, son of Zeus, being carried off for burial by the personifications of Sleep and Death" (91). What do the similarities of this scene to Caravaggio's The Deposition of Christ add to the novel?

9. At one point, Veronica makes the claim that Gabriel Allon "would have made an excellent priest" (94). What qualities might she be referring to?

10. Consider Monsignor Donati's early involvement with "liberation theology" as he describes it to Gabriel Allon. (105) What does this add to your understanding of his personality and actions throughout the novel?

11. What does it add to your understanding of Monsignor Donati to learn of his crisis of faith during which he left the priesthood and fell in love? (106)

12. Consider Rivka, the often-mentioned woman whose skeleton Eli Lavon discovered in temple ruins. (141, 355, 379) What does she represent? What does Eli's emotional attachment add to the narrative?

13. Consider the similarities between the tragic deaths of Rivka and Claudia Andreatti.

14. Archeologist Eli Lavon is said to be "waging war in those excavation trenches beneath the Western Wall" (224). How does archeology play a role in history and modern politics?

15. Gabriel Allon admits "a grudging respect" for Massoud, a terrorist leader, and even says, "in a parallel universe [he] might have been a renowned jurist or a statesman from a decent country" (250). What qualities might he be referring to?

16. Momentarily "paralyzed by memories" outside a restaurant where he once dined with his former wife Leah and their son, Gabriel Allon admits to being lost to a woman who looks to help him. Given that he knows where he is at that moment, in what other ways might he be lost?

17. Although Gabriel Allon admits to loving Israel "dearly," and his wife Chiara claims that it feels like home, Gabriel is reluctant to return there to live. What are some of the reasons? Do you think he should return?

18. Many famous paintings are mentioned and described throughout the novel. (12, 13, 14, 18, 76, 77, 120, 164, 170, 389) What does the subject matter of each, and art in general, add to the particular scene or the novel as a whole?

19. Where should Gabriel Allon go next?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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