The Messenger is the latest installment of Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon series, now six books long, about an art restorer who is also a counterterrorism agent and assassin for the State of Israel. I love this series, because its always about more than just danger and thrills like many espionage novels. Above all things, I think, these books are about the history of Jews and Israel. Books one, five and now six have been about the increasingly violent and seemingly eternal fighting between Israel, the Palestinians, and the Middle East. Books two through four were about, as Silva describes in the author’s note of A Death in Vienna, the “unfinished business of the Holocaust” (p. 397 in the hardback version).
So far, I am really enjoying The Messenger and am on tenterhooks about what’s going to happen next. However, I am also hearing a lot of the recent political discussion about Iraq and Israel coming out of the various characters’ mouths. This makes it hard to enjoy the book just for the sake of its plot and characters, but I also think this book does a great job of showing all this sides of these debates. No doubt some critics, professional and otherwise, will take issue with this, and say that Silva sacrificed a great book to get these agendas across.
I think he did, too, at least a little bit. But I think that these issues are so important for the world we live in now that we need to stay informed anyway we can. And fiction has always been a great vehicle for political commentary. (Jonathan Swift, anyone?)
I am also impressed at Swift’s ability to write about things that are so relevant now, when surely he must have had to finish this book many, many months ago. His last book, Prince of Fire, suffered a little when the world changed just after Silva wrote it. (I have a short review I wrote last year that talks about this in more detail.) It’s an unavoidable problem for books, that they often become out of date as soon as they’re published.