Daniel Silva


Moscow Rules

Gabriel Allon series


This started really well – partly (for me) because it followed a godawful book, and the contrast showed Silva at his best. I really enjoyed the way he evoked the opening scenes, and economically painted opening minor characters. I was looking forward to an intelligent thriller.


But then we met Gabriel. And in a very short time we’re dumbed right down into the typical wafer-thin, untextured, good-looking, wise-cracking, smarter, faster, better goodies taking on the evil baddies. Particularly offensive on the political climate – don’t we know Arabs are bad, Russian government is bad, Americans are good, and Israel is just that bit better than the US because it officially authorises assassination. Tom Clancy level of insight. Handbag wife. Tryhard wit in inappropriate circumstances. The plot is ludicrous – the big secret (this is not even really a spoiler) is that there’s a Russian arms dealer called Ivan who’s selling weapons to enemies of Israel. A guy dies before passing on this information because he inexplicably can’t think to send an email, or tell anyone except a bloke whose picture he saw in a paper. But everybody already knows all about Ivan anyway. We get a few hilarious conversations where our razor sharp analyst Allon actually has a conversations something like this:

Allon: So, who is this Ivan guy?

Intelligence person: There’s a guy who sell weapons to people. People like to buy weapons. He sells them.

Allon (as if solving a difficult riddle): Ivan?

Intelligence person: Ah yes. Well spotted.


I stayed with it for a while but see if you can spot why I found this paragraph a deal breaker:

“Ivan’s main stomping ground is Africa,” Carter [CIA guy] said. “But he’s made lucrative forays int the Middle East and Latin America as well. In the good old days, when the Agency and the KGB played the various factions of the Third World against one another for our own amusement, we were judicious with the flow of arms. We wanted the killing to remain at morally acceptable levels. But Ivan tore up the old rule book, and he’s torn up many of the world’s poorest places in the process…”

This *sounds like* satire – something out of Doctor Strangelove or Catch 22. But there is no awareness of irony here! Isn’t it good that the good guys (at least Silva does recognise that the US has been selling weapons for a long time – like the baddie) kept the killing at ‘morally acceptable levels’. This is shocking. Obscene. Embarrassing.


I shut the book, and wrote this review.


April 2014