The Confessor by Daniel Silva (♦♦♦½)

Gabriel Allon is in Venice, under the name Mario Delvecchio, restoring Bellini’s Madonna in the Church of San Zaccaria, when he is summoned by Ari Shamron to a secret rendezvous in the Ghetto Nuovo. Once again Gabriel is called to action when he learns that Benjamin Stern, a colleague from his early days in the Office, has been assassinated arguably by Neo Nazis.

Gabriel puts the restoration of the Madonna aside and travels to Munich where Stern lived and meets with the detective in charge of the investigation. As he inspects the apartment and the offensive graffiti left behind by the assassin, Gabriel realizes that the killer is a professional who has taken precautions to take all incriminating evidence from the house.

Gabriel further learns that Benjamin Stern had been writing a book before his untimely death; a book whose subject may be crucial to unlock the identity of his killer or killers and their motives. As it turns out, Stern had been working on a book relating the actions of Vatican’s officials during the Second World War. As Gabriel’s investigation unfolds and leads him away from Munich and Venice, he comes in possession of incriminating documents against authorities in the Vatican’s Secretary of State during WWII.

In his quest for the truth, Gabriel will cross paths with a secret society in the Catholic Church-- one whose members will stop at nothing to silence those who deviate from their doctrines-- and with a legendary assassin who will do that society’s bidding for the right price.

I liked The Confessor, though not as much as I’ve liked most of the later books in the series, or the first two. I understand why this book’s non-fictional background is less stirring than those in his other books and the reason is the institutional silence of the Church in those matters, which makes almost impossible to discern the whole facts.

In The Confessor, we are introduced for the first time to His Holiness Pope Paul VII and his private secretary Luigi Donati, characters that will re-appear in the later installment The Fallen Angel. In The Confessor, His Holiness Paul VII is tormented by grief and begs Jews for forgiveness for the sins of Catholics that allowed the Holocaust to run its course. The life of the pope is threatened from the inside by members of a secret society with long financial and political connections. Gabriel Allon is the man asked to protect His Holiness.

I was distracted way too much during my reading of The Confessor for several reasons: 1) It is somewhat cliché: overly ambitious clergymen plotting to checkmate their master (not that it hasn’t happened!); 2) It introduces characters from a later installment which kept me thinking about what happened in the other book; 3) The Confessor is generally speaking similar to the book Lazarus by Morris West, which is, in my opinion, a far more accomplished book than this one by Daniel Silva.

In summary, The Confessor by Daniel Silva is entertaining though a little cliché. Recommended reading for Catholics; it will make them think regardless of whether they’re hard core Catholics or “cafeteria” ones.

Also recommended, Lazarus by Morris West