The Order

  • Review
By – February 1, 2021

In the year 2000, Daniel Sil­va intro­duced his char­ac­ter Gabriel Allon. The author’s spy thrillers fea­tur­ing Allon pro­pelled him to the New York Times best sell­er list nine­teen times, and now again in his newest book, The Order.

What makes Allon so com­pelling? Like many great char­ac­ters in his­tor­i­cal fic­tion, he’s com­plex. Allon is an Israeli, the son of a Holo­caust sur­vivor who him­self lost a son in a ter­ror­ist attack. He went on to join the Mossad — the Israeli Intel­li­gence Agency — and devel­oped into its most famous assas­sin. In Silva’s series, Allon’s career began when Prime Min­is­ter Gol­da Meir com­mand­ed him to seek revenge on the Pales­tin­ian ter­ror­ist group that mur­dered the eleven Israeli ath­letes com­pet­ing at the 1972 Sum­mer Olympics in Munich. Allon method­i­cal­ly killed all remain­ing ter­ror­ists involved in the plan­ning and exe­cu­tion of the mur­ders, and Sil­va paints a pic­ture in which Allon is to be reviled for his vio­lence, yet revered for his com­mit­ment to the Jew­ish state.

Sil­va delves into human emo­tion by cre­at­ing a para­dox­i­cal hero: at once a warm father and hus­band, a gift­ed art restor­er, and an intel­lec­tu­al flu­ent in five lan­guages, who is also mer­ci­less in his pur­suit of those who threat­en Jews and Israel. The read­er is forced, yet again, to con­sid­er the age-old ques­tion — does the end jus­ti­fy the means? By explor­ing the con­tra­dic­tions of Allon’s life, Sil­va inves­ti­gates impor­tant themes: being Jew­ish, the val­ue of Zion­ism, and the vio­lence used in the name of sus­tain­ing the State of Israel.

Allon is nev­er at peace. He is the unwill­ing agent called out of retire­ment again and again in defense of the Jew­ish state — even­tu­al­ly pushed up the lad­der at the Mossad. In all of Silva’s books, as threats arise, Allon is called on to respond. The Order is no exception.

The nov­el begins with the death of Allon’s old friend — one whose life he has saved in the past — the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. A tale unfolds of a rad­i­cal and anti­se­mit­ic group of cler­ics and their role in this time of cri­sis in the Vat­i­can. In an attempt to explain why there are those in the church who still abhor the Jews, Sil­va weaves in a sub-plot that hangs on a pas­sage from the Gospel of Matthew which lays the death of Jesus at the feet of the Jew­ish peo­ple: his blood be on us and on our chil­dren.” This blood curse” was accept­ed and in fact pro­mul­gat­ed by the Jews at the time. The Jews of the mod­ern day are still unable to wash away that stain.

The Order is an espi­onage nov­el, but the pace is agree­ably slow, with brief peri­ods of action and sus­pense. Sil­va is a cap­ti­vat­ing sto­ry teller. He draws you into the life of Gabriel Allon, a flawed, trag­ic, yet hope­ful fig­ure, who unflinch­ing­ly com­mits to his ideals while we are per­mit­ted to watch.

Samuel H. Selesnick, M.D., F.A.C.S. is Pro­fes­sor and Vice Chair­man of the Depart­ment of Oto­laryn­gol­o­gy and Pro­fes­sor of Oto­laryn­gol­o­gy in Neu­ro­log­i­cal Surgery at the Weill Cor­nell Med­ical Col­lege. He is the Edi­tor-in-Chief of the glob­al largest and old­est oto­laryn­gol­o­gy med­ical jour­nal, The Laryn­go­scope.

Discussion Questions