The English Assassin by Daniel Silva

January 21, 2016

EnglishAssassin Plot summary (from the publisher): The Unlikely Spy, Daniel Silva’s extraordinary debut novel, was applauded by critics as it rocketed onto national bestseller lists. Now Silva has outdone himself, with a taut, lightning-paced thriller rooted assuredly in fact: Switzerland’s shameful WWII record of profiteering and collaboration with Nazi Germany.

When art restorer and occasional Israeli agent Gabriel Allon is sent to Zurich, Switzerland, to restore the painting of a reclusive millionaire banker, he arrives to find his would-be employer murdered at the foot of his Raphael. A secret collection of priceless, illicitly gained Impressionist masterpieces is missing. Gabriel’s handlers step out of the shadows to admit the truth-the collector had been silenced-and Gabriel is put back in the high-stakes spy game, battling wits with the rogue assassin he helped to train.

Tense, taut, expertly crafted, and brimming with unexpected reversals, The English Assassin is Daniel Silva at his storytelling best.

Warning: Spoilers below!


  • I thought the English assassin was a worthy opponent for Gabriel Allon. He seemed smart, capable, and competent (even though he bugged out of the Anna hit at the last second). The fact that he was still around at the end of the novel gives me hope that he might turn up again sometime down the road.


  • I had a hard time believing Gabriel could survive the beating he was given at Gessler’s place. Remember, this guy is 50 years old! Would he really have been able to escape through an unfamiliar, mountainous area after sustaining so many injuries?
  • Speaking of being 50, did Silva make a mistake in creating such an “old” protagonist? Is this going to be Poirot all over again? As far as I know, the author is still churning out Allon novels. Are some of them prequels or made up mostly of flashbacks?
  • Peterson’s change of heart was an unexpected twist, which would have been enjoyable had there been more of a reason to believe the character’s motivation. He wanted to atone for what his father did during the war (turned over some Jewish people to the Nazis)? He wanted to restore his family’s honor? Meh, not buying it.
  • And what was the deal with Anna? Why would she suddenly and unquestioningly let Gabriel into her life after living pretty much as a hermit for so long? Then there was the whole love affair, which was totally unnecessary to the main story.
  • There wasn’t enough Isherwood in this book. His relative non-participation in these events made me realize he was a big part of why I liked the first Allon novel so much.


After being blown away by how good The Kill Artist was, I came into the second Gabriel Allon novel with lofty expectations. But these were largely unmet. Despite being fairly well-written, this book suffered from credibility standpoint. The characters’ motivations were suspect (why did the English assassin change his mind about Anna? Why did Anna let Gabriel into her life? Why did Peterson pull a Sydney Carton?) and the lack of a face-to-face confrontation between protagonist and antagonist was a disappointment. I give this one 2 stars out of 5.

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