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The Rembrandt Affair  by Daniel Silva

Post by Vivian L Carpenter,

author of The Fifth  Letter

I read The Rembrandt Affair while developing The Fifth Letter.   When writing, I look for good fiction to read.  I found The Rembrandt Affair to be a great read that held my interest from the first page to the last.  I loved the way this novel educated me in an entertaining way about a very important issue that’s on the public radar today: The Iranian nuclear threat.

              I also love Daniel Silva’s polished writing style.

              In March of 2012, I visited the The Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A. to see the special exhibit “Rembrandt In America.”  In the museum bookstore, I found myself drawn to The Rembrandt Affair by Daniel Silva that was on display and purchased a copy.   As an art collector and former board member of The Detroit Institute of the Arts, I have a strong interest in the arts and art history.

            The hook worked for me—the placement of this fictional work in a museum bookstore signaled the integrity of the research that supported this novel and I was not disappointed when I went to check a fact.  I hope the readers of The Fifth Letter will have the same type of reading experience I had with The Rembrandt Affair, looking up historical facts that appear in my novel on the Internet and discovering the truth that supports the fictional story.

            On the other hand, both The Rembrandt Affair and The Fifth Letter are written in a page-turning thriller format that allows the reader to be entertained while being educated about important issues facing us in the world today.   Both The Rembrandt Affair and The Fifth Letter can quickly be read by those who just want an entertaining read, taking in critical information about in the world we live in today in an easy to digest format.

            The Rembrandt Affair is a spy thriller.

            The Fifth Letter is a political thriller.

            Neither is a legal thriller.

            Thrillers are not all cut from the same cloth, but there are some common threads that readers of The Rembrandt Affair might notice because the parallels to The Fifth Letter are many.  Hidden children.  A terrible family secret.   Attempts to cut ties from the past that fail.  Bad people who will kill to get what they want.  International intrigue.  Murder.  Greed.  A strong, captivating female character with flaws.  A complex plot made easy to follow. 

            The main character in The Rembrandt Affair, is an Israeli spy and art restorer named Gabriel Allon while the main character in The Fifth Letter, is U.S. Supreme Court Justice Katherine Helena Ross.  They’re both placed on a platform of reality that brings them to vivid fictional life.  They both dislike the bad guys and will not be intimidated into inaction when called.  They’re both on a hero’s journey.  They’re both soft people on the inside, but tough outer shells.  They do what they have to do.

            They have more than one mask that they can wear when confronting the challenges of life.  They have the capacity to close down their emotions.

            Both Gabreil Allon and Katherine Ross must face sophisticated, well-placed and well-trained operatives that will put their skills up for sale to the highest bidder. They want love in their lives, but they’re both are forced to put love on a shelf.  They face violence over and over again.  Is their desire for love a weakness?

            It’s a sad fact that horrific brutality and injustice are tolerated by the world.

            Injustice is shown in both novels and pulls on the hearts of the reader.

            Both have a riveting story about a child hidden.  A child separated from parents at an early age to save their life, but who later learns of the killing of loved family members who could not be hidden or refused to run.  The surviving child is haunted for a lifetime, surviving with a pain that can never really be healed.

            I was easily transported to these scenes in The Rembrant Affair by Silva’s great writing.  I could feel the pain in many of his scenes.

            While reading The Rembrandt Affair, I keep wondering:  Are these characters based on real people?  Real situations that actually happened?  Do the paintings mentioned actually exist?  What’s fact?  What’s pure fiction?  It was hard for me to tell.  Yet, I was sure I was learning something important that was shedding a light on a truth through this entertaining story. 

When I did stop to check a fact.  It checked out.

            The Rembrandt Affair is a story wrapped around the suffering of the Dutch Jews during Nazi occupation.  Massive suffering.  I learned about the role of the Vatican in the Holocaust during my reading.  I was able to get a deeper understanding of the brutality that occurred during the Holocaust while the light in the world slowly turned dark with insufficient will of the people to resist the oppressors before millions of Jews died.

            Yes, I can see a lot of parallels.  Horrific injustice.  International Intrigue.

            Take a close look at the lead females characters in both works.   Both are strong characters who challenge power.  Zoe Reed in The Rembrandt Affair.  Katherine Ross in The Fifth Letter.  They’re both tough.  They’re both smart.  They’re both sexy.  But they also are characters with flaws.  They both take on dangerous assignments for the public good.

            The Fifth Letter, like The Rembrant Affair, gives the reader a perspective on the dangers in the world today, providing an insight into how governments operate that you won’t find in textbooks.   There are parallels to current events.  Novels with a dose of reality.  I think Dan Silva draws inspiration for his novels from real world events, a technique I used in writing The Fifth Letter.  Moreover, he probes the moral questions of today.  The Rembrandt Affair meets reality.  So does The Fifth Letter.

            Dan Silva specializes in writing time appropriate plot that involves international intrigue.  I walked along that path in developing The Fifth Letter.  In The Rembrandt Affair, Silva accomplished that goal for this reader. Gabriel Allon uses restoring art to heal himself after tough assignments when he may have been forced to kill.  In a deleted chapter of The Fifth Letter, Katherine Ross used the beautiful artwork in her bedroom to heal herself after a tough day at the Court.  Justice Ross appreciates the symbolism in the arts and comments on that in her senate confirmation.  There is no question that Gabriel Allon appreciates the symbolism in the artwork that he has dedicated his life to restoring.

            Both Gabriel and Katherine have strong moral values and believe in justice. They are not afraid to face the bad guys or to take unconventional actions when the circumstances dictate.  They want to comfortable lives, but their moral values won’t let them sit on the sidelines when called.

            I was left with this question when I finished reading The Rembrandt Affair: Do professional art thieves exist who service the upper end of the art market and will kill to satisfy an order?

            I think readers of The Fifth Letter will have a similar question: Do professional operatives exist who promote violence and will kill for the right fee?

            Unfortunately, I think the answer to both questions is YES.    Both of these stories are based on criminal networks with superior skills and significant financial backing.  There existence is hard, if not, impossible to prove because they work through professionals who are well-trained and protected.  They work with invisible hands to get what they want in a world where self-interest and money rule. 

Both The Rembrandt Affair and The Fifth Letter remind us that there are some people in the world who will do anything for money. 

Both are morality tales about greed.

            The Rembrant Affair and The Fifth Letter show people with high moral principles who will never be able to live peaceful lives.   They will be asked to face death again and again in noble efforts to do what is right.  And they will answer the call to adventure, always overcoming their fears. Gabriel Allon and Katherine Rose are heros who are willing to risk their lives opposing evil forces in our choatic world for the right cause.

            I love both of them as main characters. They’re cut from the same cloth.  I believe The Rembrandt Affair and The Fifth Letter are one in spirit. I was inspired as a writer as I read The Rembrandt Affair. It was a shining example of what The Fifth Letter should be.  Daniel Silva sets a very high bar for all thriller writers to reach.  The Fifth Letter is waiting for judgment.  The Rembrandt Affair was a hit with me.



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