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The Confessor
By Daniel Silva

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The Confessor

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The Confessor
By Daniel Silva
Thorndike Press - Large Print, (2004)
ISBN: 0-7862-5448-3
Genre: Thriller

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - August 24, 2004

During World War II, did the Catholic Church and it leader, Pope Pius XII, speak out against Nazi atrocities against the Jews? Did elements of the Catholic Church actively participated in the expulsion and murder throughout Europe? If Pope Pius XII had ordered his church's members to help save the Jews, would they? If he had been willing to excommunicated those who participated in the murder of Jews and others that the Nazi's labeled as undesirable, how would that have affected the outcome of the Nazi's attempt to murder Europe's Jewry? These are but a few of the contentions and controversial issues that are addressed in Daniel Silva's fictional thriller, The Confessor.

The Confessor is the third book by Silva to feature the emotionally scared and artistically gifted art restored, Gabriel Allon and it follows on the heels of The Kill Artist and The English Assassin. The Confessor is set a year after the conclusion of The English Assassin and it finds Allon doing what he does best, restoring a damaged masterpiece. Working under his nom de guerre, Mario Delvecchio, Allon is working as part of team that is restoring a Bellini in the San Zaccaria church in Venice, Italy.

When in his guise as Mario, Allon presents himself as a native Italian. The truth, however, is far different. Allon is an Israeli who occasionally, and somewhat reluctantly at times, does some side work as a secret agent for the Israeli government. In The Confessor Allon is once again forced by circumstances to put away his paint brush and strap on a gun. The cause, the murder, in Munich, of his friend and colleague, Benjamin Stern. A historian, Stern had been working on a book that detailed the complicity of some elements in the Roman Catholic Church, and Pope Pius XII, in the murder of Jews during World War II. At first glance, his murder has nothing to do with the book. His killer painted neo-Nazi slogans on the walls of Stern's apartment in an attempt to disguise his killing as a hate crime. It was a hate crime, but not one carried out by the neo-Nazi's. As Allon investigates his friend's murder, it becomes apparent that his death was tied to the book he was writing. The question is, who, within the church, was willing to kill to keeps the church's secrets?

Juxtaposed against those within the church's hierarchy that wish to keep the church's involvement with the Nazi's a secret is the elected Pope who seeks to hang out all of the church's dirty laundry in order to cleanse the church and to seek forgiveness for any misdeeds associated with the Holocaust, and to seek reconciliation with the Jews. His stance threatens not only his papacy, but also his life as there are those within the church that are willing to silence a pope in order to protect the status quo. The pope's efforts to break the church's institutional policy of secrecy is interwoven with Allon's endeavors to uncover Stern's killer and the real reason for his murder.

The Confessor is a fast-paced thriller, infused with real-life events. Allon's investigation leads him to the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Brenzone and into the sights of the Crux Vera. This is a super secret agency that is willing to do 'anything' they see fit to ensure that the Catholic Church follows their agenda. Allon's investigation into Stern's death takes him on a hair-raising journey throughout Europe. The deeper he delves into the mystery, the more bodies he turns up. He discovers that Stern was not the first, nor the last victim of this mysterious group. As Allon discovers, the Crux Vera has tentacles that invades every aspect of Vatican, and they have the power to destroy anyone who they feel is a threat to the Church or their group. From their perspective, Allon is a threat to both and they set out to destroy him by painting him as an assassin who is out to kill the current pope. While Allon chases the bad guys, law enforcement officials are chasing Allon, as is an assassin known as the Leopard, with ties to several Palestine terrorist groups, who has his own grudge against Allon. The only positive element in Allon's life as he tracts down Stern's killers is Chiara, a Rabbi's daughter, who is willing to risk her life to help Allon and to uncover the truth, both about Stern's murder, and the church's role in the murder of Jews during World War II and the protection that they offered to many Nazi war criminals after the war ended.

A well-plotted book, The Confessor is in some regards, a simply a well-wrought variation of Silva's novel, The English Assassin. Both feature a skilled assassin that haunts Allon's track, and who carries out repeated murders throughout the story. Both feature a mysterious, ultra secret group that is bent upon doing whatever it takes to ensure that their agenda is carried out. Both stories detail current events surrounding the atrocities carried out by the Nazi's and those that aided them. Despite these similarities, each book in the Allon series is a unique story that is emotionally compelling and riveting. Well-paced, complex, and intriguing, The Confessor is an entertaining read.


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