Eli Lavon, an old friend of Gabriel Allon, Israeli master spy, lies near death, the victim of an explosion in the Wartime Claims and Inquiries office in Vienna. When Israeli spymaster, Ari Shamron, asks Allon to track down who was behind the bombing and bring them to justice, a twisted international trail of clues and history leads Allon to tales of his own mother's death march to Auschwitz and traces of Sturmbannführer Erich Radek, now living as Ludwig Vogel, a prominent high profile, wealthy and very influential businessman in Vienna. During the latter stages of WWII, when Hitler and all of his senior staff knew that Germany was losing the war to the squeeze between advancing western Allied and Russian forces, it was a sadistic, psychotic Radek's overwhelming and horrifying job to literally eradicate the existence of the Holocaust from history, to erase the evidence that it ever existed, to bury the camps and to destroy the bodies and mass burial sites.
Like many other spy vs spy espionage thrillers set either in the 1940s or set in the present but related to the context of the events of WWII, the plot of A DEATH IN VIENNA is not a simple one - a complex trail of clues and events, intermingling of historical events with current day happenings, a seemingly endless cast of characters, the mystifying motives of political, racial and military imperatives and a literal maze of globetrotting travel and communication. Who's on whose side, why somebody is doing what they're doing, who's gunning for who, who's telling the truth and who's twisting the facts for their own unstated purposes is never obvious and a reader, if they hope to take anything away from the story, will have to pay close attention from first page to last.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that Silva's Nazi thriller stories are acceptable but not great in comparison with the likes of Jack Higgins or even Ken Follett, for example. But (and I believe this is much more important) this remarkable thriller also allows Silva to continue his story of the Eastern European death camps, the brutal genocide that was the Holocaust and the heartbreaking tale of one woman's courageous story. The way in which Silva tells the story of the plight of the Jewish people during the war, far from being a distracting side story or merely a side bar essay, lifts A DEATH IN VIENNA from a routine and probably unremarkable thriller to a moving and entirely outstanding tale of both mystery, passion and heartbreak.
Even if you are not a particularly big fan of the thriller genre, A DEATH IN VIENNA, as the culmination of the series that includes THE CONFESSOR and THE ENGLISH ASSASSIN, is well worth reading for the history and the back story alone. Highly recommended.
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