The Rembrandt Affair - Daniel Silva Daniel Silva goes deep down the Jewish angst to craft this tale of a covert operation codenamed 'Masterpiece'. It begins as an investigation of a stolen painting by Rembrandt. To find it, Gabriel Allon, a retired Israeli uber-spy, investigates its history on the vague notion that to find the painting one must know where it's been. And uncovers a sordid affair in 1943 of a Nazi officer coercing a Jewish Dutch family to sell the painting in exchange for the life of a daughter. It is just one of many such heinous actions by the same Nazi officer, who then deposits his plunder in a small Swiss bank. The record of his transactions he hides in the painting's backing. Post WWII, after the Nazi officer has gone into hiding in Argentina, the Swiss manager of the bank seizes the Nazi's assets. Years later, the manager's son has become a present day billionaire philanthropist. But his philanthropy is just a front for a far-ranging business that includes the supply of centrifuges to the Iranian nuclear industry. Enter the Israeli spy agency known as the 'Office' and the Masterpiece operation. The rest is pure Silva intrigue and derring-do to halt Iran's bomb development, and to return the lost Rembrandt to its rightful owner, a Dutch woman of Jewish descent who lost all her family to the holocaust. The best part of the book, however, is not about espionage. It is the flashback of a Jewish family, who, Anne Frank-like, tried to hide from the Nazi pogrom in an attic. But they are discovered and sent to Auschwich. Before the family is put on the death train, the father makes a bargain for her daughter's life in exchange for a valued painting by Rembrandt. The author delivers a deeply evocative depiction of this episode that powers the rest of the book.
There is a sense of lashing out, against the Swiss mainly, also the Nazis, and the rest of world who stood idly by or even took advantage of the Jewish misery of WWII. This anger is an undercurrent that alternately motivates and drags the book. In the end, Silva seems to be saying, there is only Israel helping itself in the most dangerous place on earth.
This is my third book in the Allon series. Deliberately I have been reading out of sequence to see various stages of the development of the character. By far this is the best of the three I've read. I do have a nit with the denouement of the Masterpiece operation which seemed much too facile. But maybe Silva just ran out of space or steam or time to put together a better resolution.