Prince of Fire by Daniel Silva (♦♦♦½)

After a monstrous attack to the Israeli embassy in Rome and the subsequent discovery in terrorist hands of a dossier that details Gabriel Allon’s career exploits, Ari Shamron pays a visit to Gabriel and Chiara in Venice—where Gabriel is restoring a Bellini’s altarpiece—to let them know the contents of the dossier and force them to leave Venice for Jerusalem effective immediately. Gabriel will be once again an active “Office” member this time under Lev’s leadership.

Upon Gabriel’s return to the “Office”, Lev assigns him a team with many members. After an inspection of personnel files, Gabriel settles for a team of four-- Dina is a living database of every terrorist act ever committed, Rimona is an army captain and Ari Shamron’s niece, Yossi is a computer analyst and Yaakov used to be a rough patrol guy.

Gabriel’s team starts to compile data on the Rome attack and a very interesting theory emerges courtesy of Dina, one in which a boy with terrorist pedigree named Khaled has grown up to become a vengeful puppeteer. According to Dina, the boy whose father Gabriel killed in 1972, has become a mastermind in its own right, carefully prodded by Arafat himself. The only problem with Dina’s theory is that no one knows where that man is or how he looks like, in other words, he is a myth. But Dina’s case despite being circumstantial is not only intriguing but compelling as well. Leave it to Gabriel to believe in the possibility of Khaled’s existence.

Following tips coming from different sources the investigation leads to a possible attack in Paris but the clock is painfully ticking towards the deadline and Khaled has just spiced up the cat-and-mouse game by kidnapping Leah from Surrey’s mental hospital.

In Prince of Fire, Daniel Silva starts already in the middle of the action and what follows is not only a great detective story but a tale of betrayals, rebellions, murders and double-crosses. Despite being an adrenaline ride is not as intense as it should be given the topic. Still, Silva knows his history and makes ample use of it to deliver a very convincing case against Arafat and company. There is plenty of material in Prince of Fire to fuel a smart political discussion or two; I particularly liked when Gabriel poses the questions to Eli Lavon and Ari Shamron “Did we drive them [Palestinians] out?” and Shamron being the tough cookie he is says why is convinced it was the best course of action.

In Prince of Fire Gabriel assembles a formal team for the first time. Those four people and a few more added later will partake on the adventures which come later in the series. Also in this installment Gabriel is asked for the first time to take charge of the “Office” as Director. And the foundation of Gabriel and Chiara’s relationship is put to the test. Will Gabriel assume control of the “Office”? Will he marry Chiara? Tune in for more developments in the series.