The Defector by Daniel Silva (♦♦♦♦½)

When former KGB agent, now Russian defector, Grigori Bulganov appears to enter willingly into a limousine in a London street, British intelligence officers think that he has re-defected. Every one of his movement the night of his disappearance seem to reinforce that opinion. Leave it to Gabriel Allon, master Israeli spy and assassin, to think otherwise.

Gabriel is living with Chiara, his wife, in Umbria, Italy. There he is restoring a painting for the Pope. When Grigori Bulganov disappears in London, Uzi Navot, “the Office” director of operations, travels to Italy to pick up Gabriel and Chiara and bring them safely to Israel. Gabriel buys time with Navot, meanwhile traveling to London where he proves that Russian oligarch and arms dealer Ivan Karkhov is behind Grigori’s disappearance. When Chiara’s bodyguards are killed at the entrance of the villa in Umbria, and Chiara is taken hostage, Gabriel and his team of operatives will start a rescue operation that will take them in a journey for various European cities and will end in a terrible showdown with Ivan Karkhov and his troops in a snowy birch forest in Russia.

This book is very intense; the last 130 pages are so much so that I thought my heart was going to explode. This is the second book I read in the Gabriel Allon’s series; previously I read The Rembrandt Affair. I love several things about this series: it is a well informative source of current world’s political affairs where fact and fiction intermingle perfectly; furthermore, Gabriel and his team never win in absolute terms, they never leave an operation unscathed--and judging by this ending, this has been the worse thus far—which makes the story far from predictable. Oddly enough, the strongest outlined character in the series is not Gabriel or any of his operatives, but Ari Shamron, the eternal guardian of the Israeli State, a larger-than-life figure, always worrying, always fighting.

I don’t know if I should read Moscow Rules next or start from the series beginning, but I’m hooked.