Moscow Rules by Daniel Silva (♦♦♦♦)

A Russian journalist in an undercover assignment is killed in a hotel in France to prevent him from exposing an incendiary arms deal. Later, the editor in chief of the newspaper where the late journalist worked is found on the brink of death by Gabriel Allon before making a startling confession. After both deaths, Gabriel travels to Russia in an apparent routine mission to meet with yet another Russian journalist who may know about the arms deal-- with serious implications for the West and Israel—and this time there’s an attempt on the lives of both Gabriel and the female journalist named Olga Zukhova.

When Olga reveals that the name of her source is none other than Elena Kharkov, spouse of powerful oligarch and arms trafficker Ivan Kharkov, Gabriel has no other choice but to engage in a mission to recruit Elena and finding out the nature of her husband’s latest profitable arms deal.

A painting by Mary Cassatt, of whose art Elena is a devoted admirer, provides the entry way to Elena’s world. The recruitment is accomplished flawlessly but not without danger. Elena is constantly accompanied by bodyguards wherever she goes and Gabriel is left to conceive a scenario to get rid of them without awaking suspicions.

When Elena finally reveals what she knows there are more questions than answers left, thus she volunteers to extract her husband’s digital files stored under a lot of security in Ivan’s office in Moscow. Problem is how to do it without being overt. Gabriel’s team travels to Russia to support the operation, but as anyone can guess, things don’t go according to plan. Do they ever?!

I really liked Moscow Rules. This is a taut thriller, darker in tone and attitude than any of its predecessors in the series. Moscow Rules along with the The Defector are the two most accomplished books in the whole series in my opinion, and the topic as always, current and the dangers way too real.

In Moscow Rules Gabriel is sent to deal with a rogue businessman with no qualms about making a pact with the devil in order to make a handsome profit. Unfortunately, with the fall of Communism in the former Soviet Union and the emergence of a free market economy regulated by elements who were members of the former apparatchik, the deals with extremist militants and governments intent on defeating the West have become a serious problem. Moscow Rules, as the other books in the series may be a work of fiction but raises serious concerns that Western society better address before it’s too late.

With Moscow Rules I conclude my reading of the Gabriel Allon series-- not because it is the last book in the series but because I started at the end and then met in the middle--, at least until the next book comes out. The next one is supposed to be out this summer and is titled The English Girl.

Now that I have finished this series thus far I have a few things to say:
I like Gabriel –he is artistic, moody and thoughtful, at least when it comes to the people who work with and around him, and he has the craziest sense of humor—but I love Ari. Ari is the quintessential leader, a survivor, a warrior; he is a soldier, he is the mere soul of Israel. I believe he is the character most well defined in the book; he practically jumps out of the pages. I also like Uzi Navot, because he is an underdog, the guy who is always thought of in second place, after Gabriel, of course.

From Gabriel’s team I like Rimona, Mikhail and Dina more than the others, and Dina the best among them. Dina is a living encyclopedia on every terrorist act committed against Israel, and she is a survivor of one attack as well; she has the emotional, psychological and physical scars to prove it.

I should add that I have learned more about world politics than I’ve learned about art, but I like it that way. The Gabriel Allon series has provided me with juicy background information about some of the most intriguing conflicts around the world.

I can’t wait for The English Girl to be in the stores!

Favorite quotes:

   “She ignored the dilapidated office buildings, the Brezhnev-era apartment blocks collapsing under their own weight, and the storefront shops now brimming with consumer goods the Soviet state could never provide. These were the relics of the grand folly the Soviets had attempted to foist on the rest of the world. Now, in the mind of the New Russians, the murderous crimes of the Bolsheviks were but a way station on the road to an era of Russian greatness. The gulags, the cruelty, the untold millions who were starved to death or ‘repressed’—they were only unpleasant details. No one was ever punished for his sins.” Page 90

He didn’t bother searching it; he was playing by the Moscow Rules now. Assume every room is bugged and every telephone call monitored. Assume every person you encounter is under opposition control. And don’t look back. You are never completely alone.” Page 90

’She’s obsessed with Mary Cassatt.’
‘Is that one of Ivan’s girlfriends?’
‘She is a painter, Adrian. An Impressionist painter. A rather good one, actually.’
‘Forgive me, Gabriel. I’ve been somewhat busy since 9/11. I can give you chapter and verse on the one hundred most dangerous terrorists in the world, but I can’t tell you the title of the last movie I saw.’
‘You need to get out more, Adrian.’
‘Tell that to al-Qaeda.’” Page 178