In Moscow Rules by Daniel Silva, when a Russian journalist dies in the arms of Gabriel Allon, an Israeli operative, at the Basilica in Rome, Gabriel’s highest level friends in the Vatican are not thrilled. Gabriel had a meeting with this, now dead, reporter who had something to tell him. Gabriel is not thrilled either. He was on his honeymoon in Umbria and he does not want any part of this. But it’s a mystery that involves injustice, assassination, and perhaps more; clarion calls that Allon can never fail to answer. Gabriel immediately knows his honeymoon is over.
Ops inside Russia, especially in Moscow, are rarely undertaken by any nation’s spy agency, let alone the Israelis. Moscow plays by its own rules. What is supposed to be a quick in and out excursion, under a false identity, to talk with Olga Sukhova, another journalist, goes badly awry when Gabriel decides to outstay his team. Moscow rules say, “Assume every room is bugged and every telephone monitored. Assume every person you encounter is under opposition control. And don’t look back. You are never completely alone.” And yet he defies his boss and friend Ari Shamron and stays. Guess how that turns out.
In these days when we talk about Russia every day, the information the author gives us about Russia is very familiar to us. Olga tells Gabriel, “To understand Russia today, you must understand the trauma of the nineties. Everything we had, everything we had been told, was swept away. We went from superpower to basket case overnight. Our people lost their life savings, not just once but over and over again. Russians are paternalistic people. They believe in the Orthodox Church, the State, the Tsar. They associate democracy with chaos. Our president… uses words like ‘managed democracy’ and ‘State capitalism’ but they’re just euphemisms for something more sinister, fascism.”
Gabriel’s Russian op does not stay in Russia. He learns that the man our reporters were so worried about is a very wealthy Russian oligarch who is very well guarded. Olga tells Gabriel exactly why this particular oligarch is so dangerous and exactly how he has stepped over a “red line” to pursue a business deal that must be stopped.
In Moscow Rules you can read about the plan Gabriel comes up with to flush him out. Since we know that Gabriel’s plans do not go smoothly, find out how he messes up this time. Find out if his new wife is still speaking to him after he never gets back to the honeymoon. It’s a very satisfying Gabriel Allon book. It has all the characteristic parts of the pattern readers expect when they throw in their lot with the Israeli Secret Service and their painterly operative, who manages, despite the powerful people he chases down, to get some of the worst players off the world stage. I think you will find that it also resonates with the situation we find ourselves in today, vis a vis Russia. Serendipity.