Meet Gabriel Allon, reluctant assassin. "The Kill Artist," published in 2000, introduces us to Daniel Silva's popular Gabriel Allon series. Yes, the series gets better as it progresses: "The Kill Artist" is not its best entry. In fact, I think that each entry gets better than the last one, reflecting the growing skill of the author. None-the-less, I still recommend that anyone wishing to listen to the subsequent Gabriel Allon novels should start here, with "The Kill Artist," and then listen to the novels in sequence. The Gabriel Allon character has a lot of complexity, as do the plots of all his adventures. Although Daniel Silva does a good job summarizing all that you need to know for each successive episode, you will still miss out on the richness of this series if you pick it up in the middle. (In fact, I did just that, not knowing any better at the time. Now, I am enjoying going back and listening to the series in the proper order ... and getting so much more out of it than I did the first time 'round.)
Author Daniel Silva is a pretty complex character, himself. Raised in a devoutly Catholic family, he converted to Judaism in adulthood, as a result of his marriage. Now he writes compelling novels about an Israeli Mossad assassin (although, curiously, the Mossad is never mentioned in any of his Gabriel Allon novels -- it is just called "the Office"), in which we learn more than we may have ever wanted to know about the Holocaust, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, international politics, and recent world history. Whether or not these novels suit one's taste in fiction, one cannot deny the deep, penetrating intelligence and profound, cynical knowledge of world events and human nature that emanates from all of Daniel Silva's novels. As some previous reviewers have noted, "The Kill Artist" has some pretty dark aspects to it -- don't buy it for light escape fiction -- but it does offer some intriguing, disturbing, and surprisingly fair-minded insights into current headlines and the human psychology behind them.
George Guidall, as always, does an excellent job narrating "The Kill Artist." He has a lovely, warm, mature voice, that he can adapt into many different characters, including female characters. Although he draws some of his accents from his "generic" bag, he uses a pretty credible French accent for this audiobook.
First, I think that I should tell you why you might 𝙣o𝙩 want to purchase "The Skorpion Directive," as this novel will not suit everyone. Don't buy this audiobook if you have not yet listened its Micah Dalton series predecessors -- starting with "The Echelon Vendetta" (2007) -- because you will miss out on the continuity and some of the allusions. Secondly, don't buy this audiobook if you object to right-wing proselytizing. Yes, David Stone has a right-of-center political stance ... but, then, so do Tom Clancy, Patrick Robinson, Stephen Hunter, and most of the other Military Thriller writers. I consider myself to have pretty liberal sensibilities -- and I am sticking to them! -- but I would regret missing out on these writers who, despite their right-wing stances, offer us some pretty exciting stories. Stone, in particular, is not only a good story-teller, but also a surprisingly good writer. Some of his descriptions qualify as poetry ... but he does proselytize:
"Here, at the end of my life, I've come to realize that the only reliable law is the law of unintended consequences. This new administration [referring to the Obama administration], for the most part, is neither stupid nor blindly partisan ... although some of the younger staffers at the White House seem to think it clever to act like junkyard dogs, as if political combat were the same as actual combat. But, then, when the young Turks in any new government aren't prating to their elders, they're preening in their shaving mirrors. They all share the same delusions of adequacy. The previous administration persuaded itself that it had the power to impose a kind of Junior-League Republicanism on murderous tribal theocracies. The new one imagines that it can impose the asinine Marcusian sophistries of Norm Chompsky and the Harvard faculty of humanities on the people of America; as if Socialism had not already been tried many times before, only to collapse in ruins -- frequently very bloody ruins. And God only knows what sort of grotesque ideological calliope the next army of enthusiasts will ride in on, horns blatting and banners ablaze. My consolation is that I'll probably not be around when the wheels fall off again."
In his Micah Dalton series, Stone consistently pursues an agenda: The C.I.A. should be allowed to do its job, unencumbered with liberal fetters. He makes a pretty good case for this agenda, showing through Micah Dalton's tribulations how the C.I.A. agents are hampered by government restrictions. In his Micah Dalton series, Stone has Dalton endure some hair-raising, terrifyingly realistic adventures. Don't buy 𝙖𝙣𝙮 of Stone's Micah Dalton audiobooks if graphic descriptions of violence make you queazy.
The narrator of "The Skorpion Directive," Jason Culp, has a slightly odd voice, but very good acting skills. He has many voices and accents at his command to distinguish all the characters from one another. I would recommend "The Skorpion Directive" to anyone who enjoys the Military Thriller genre, with the above-mentioned caveats.
I love it when an author can present a far-fetched story that provides such entertainment that we willingly suspend disbelief for the fun of the ride. Although Baldacci may have fetched afar for this plot, he keeps us gladly reading. I think he must have a knack, because normally when unskilled authors try that trick, I go, "Oh, please!" But, in this case, when presented with the prospect of a former C.I.A. assassin reduced to willing poverty and anonymous, underground activism, I go, "Yeah? Tell me more!" We keep rooting for this rag-tag band of aging misfits -- the eponymous Camel Club -- all the way through the book, as they uncover the truth. Plus, this story provides us some scary insights into how our government (probably any government) works, and how decisions are made behind the scenes. By the time we see the news in the media, we can forget about any grain of truth concealed therein.