A Death in Vienna
Putnam, February, 2004.
Hardcover, 403 pages.
Art restorer and sometime Mossad agent Gabriel Allon is happily working in Venice to restore one of Bellini's most beautiful altarpieces when he gets the call from master spy Ari Shamron. Gabriel's old friend, Eli Lavon, the chief investigator of the Austrian Wartime Claims and Inquiries office is near death after a bombing attack. Gabriel has not been back to Vienna since the horrific death of his wife and daughter, but he agrees to investigate the assassination attempt. His investigation puts him on the trail of Sturmbannfuhrer Erich Radek, who goes by the name Ludwig Vogel. Radek is a Nazi war criminal now living as a prosperous businessman in Austria. When Gabriel finally discovers his dead mother's account of what happened to her in a concentration camp during World War II, the case takes on a personal element that changes everything he thought he knew about his mother and his childhood.
A Death in Vienna is the third book in the series which deals with the "unfinished business of the Holocauast," after The English Assassin and The Confessor, which dealt with the complicity of Swiss bankers in the theft of Jewish art and the Vatican's complicity in the Holocaust. The book has parallel tracks: one track delves into the past of Gabriel's mother and Radek, whose job was to erase all evidence of the concentration camps before the Allies arrived at the end of World War II. The present storyline explores the current rise of the extreme right wing party in Austria, which some attribute to the fact that Austria never prosecuted war criminals, but integrated them back into society. There is suspense and action, but there is also a very serious examination of issues that some would rather leave buried (those who claim the Holocaust never happened, for example). Gabriel Allon is a fascinating character with many demons to battle, both real and metaphorical and his struggles and exploits make for compelling reading.
--Claire E. White
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This review was published in the March-April, 2004 of The Internet Writing Journal.
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