Moscow Rules - Daniel Silva This book's title, Moscow Rules, hearkens back to the spy novels of John LeCarré, and books such as Martin Cruz Smith's Gorky Park. But there is an important distinction to make at the outset. The Moscow Rules of these earlier spy stories were born at the heart of the Cold War, before the time of instant communication, and the attendant electronic eavesdropping that is so pervasive today. Instead, Daniel Silva's Moscow Rules are the evolved spy craft in response to the rise of new political power in the Kremlin, the emergence of thuggish oligarchs and the formation of a new Russian empire. This is a much more violent and accelerated version of the Rules, where an operative's survival depends on instantaneous response to the adversaries' actions.
On this backdrop, the author builds a modern complex tale of intrigue and extremism. He moves the story location all across Europe and the US, with the most tense moments in the new Moscow. And in the interstices, he fills it with brief expositions on art and antiquities. In the center is a wry and deadly Israeli James Bond (more Daniel Craig than Roger Moore) whose personal nobility drives the sequence of events. Overall, he puts together an engrossing tale of action and suspense.
There are some nits which may or may not bother the reader. I note these here only for completeness of the review. I personally enjoyed the book regardless of these nits. This is book #8 in a series featuring the main character, Gabriel Allon, and there are numerous references to events in previous books (which at the time of this review, I have not read). These previous books may help explain Allon's cavalier treatment of his wife, Chiara. The number of coincidental events that happen to aid the main character at just the opportune times may also be bothersome. (The science fiction author, Roger Zelazny, wrote that a fiction book is allowed only one such coincidence.) The last of these coincidences relates to the sudden emergence of one of the protagonist as a friend, after having severely beaten Allon in an earlier part of the book. It's possible that the author writes himself into a corner and the only way out, other than disgarding a whole segment of the novel and starting over, is to introduce a saving element. As noted, once is probably tolerable but several such instances may challenge the reader's suspension of disbelief. This is only the second Allon book I've read but there is a formula to these books that emerges even with just these two that other reviewers have noted. On this basis I anticipated that the operational planning described in the book were mostly smoke and that the ensuing events would diverge and produce the action and suspense segments in the story. End of nits.
There is enough here to want to read another book in the series.