I am, as regular readers of the blog know, a voracious reader. I intersperse heavy duty non-fiction — like Jane Mayer’s Dark Money — with beautifully written fiction, like the novels of Kent Haruf or the short stories of Flannery O’Connor, and then with mysteries, a longtime favorite genre.
Daniel Silva now has 17 books in the Gabriel Allon series, the latest being House of Spies. Silva has somehow avoided becoming formulaic and boring a la John Grisham or Patricia Cornwell; the newest Allon novel is as gripping as the first in the series. The books are fiction, and the main character harkens back to the tough nobility of the founding story of Israel, not to the much messier current political reality. Fiction authors get to do that, write about a character as he should be, as he perhaps once was.
Allon faces terrible odds in the battle against terrorists, drug traffickers, money launderers, and garden variety psychopaths and sadists. Allon always survives to continue the fight, albeit sometimes with grievous losses. He rises again, the nation-state of Israel endures, and the bad guys get their due. Silva is a fine writer, and the stories are complex, the characters have depth. The durability of the Allon character seems plausible. He leaves a lot of dead bad guys in his wake.
Three of the mystery writers I read churn out new books on a regular basis: Cara Black with her detective Aimee Leduc, Louise Penny with Chief Inspector Gamache, and Silva. Of the three, Silva is probably the best writer. Of the three characters, I favor Inspector Gamache. I would like him as a friend, a neighbor, as the officer in charge of a case in which I was the victim. I would trust my future in his competent hands.
I think I like mysteries, find them a respite from the rest of my reading, for a simple reason: so much seems to go awry in the world, and I need a regular infusion of stories in which goodness wins out. Even if it’s only in a writer’s imagination.