I finally managed to find the first book in the Gabriel Allon series, only to find out that this book refers back to three prequels, including one about an operation to avenge the deaths at the Munich Olympics. These books are not in the Allon series but they offer explanations for the events in The Kill Artist which is considered the first book in the series. In 1996, Silva wrote The Unlikely Spy, in 1998 he wrote the Mark of the Assassin, and in 1999, The Marching Season.
The events that caused the death of Gabriel’s son and the maiming of his wife – events that haunt Gabriel’s dreams and inform his current activities, happened because Allon had killed two members of a family of Palestinian terrorists who killed Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. Tariq al-Hourani, Gabriel’s target in The Kill Artist, is the man who placed the bomb that blew up Gabriel’s family, as he watched helplessly. Tariq is also a Palestinian, related to the two terrorists killed for their murders in Munich, his car bombing an act of revenge.
(Many readers, sympathetic to the needs of Palestinians, find this plot line unpalatable. It is true that readers of thrillers don’t want to dwell on the Israeli-Palestinian divide. But after these early books, Silva is not always focused on righting wrongs (imagined or real) of Palestinian “terrorists” against Jews. If this was the axe that was ground by the author through every book, his work would not be so popular. Silva chooses to address diverse forms of the terror humans perpetrate against each other.)
Another interesting element to note in Silva’s books is his female characters. They are usually strong, beautiful, and driven by some injustice or injury in their past. Silva creates his spy, Gabriel, who trusts women to be as talented and ruthless as men, given the proper training, and using their existing motivations to exact justice. Although he sometimes sleeps with these talented beauties, they know he doesn’t love them and they know he will not let them be victimized if he can prevent it. These women bear no grudges against the handsome spy who has lost his family, although considering how almost every operation ends, they would, if they knew, probably be less inclined to cooperate.
Tariq al-Hourani is a brutal guy but he is dying. Gabriel uses a woman, born Jewish but raised by a French family; a woman whose parents were murdered by the Nazis at Sobibor. She is Sarah Halévy, but her French name is Jacqueline Delacroix. She has her own reasons to help Gabriel assassinate al-Hourani. Things, as usual, go terribly awry but Gabriel is the one who ends up with a bullet in his chest. This is not really a spoiler because we never wonder if Allon will be hurt, only how it will happen. Roaming around the best bits of Europe with Gabriel Allon is always a nerve-wracking adventure. But this book begins and ends in one of my favorite Gabriel locations, an isolated cottage in Cornwall, England.