The Cellist

“A nuclear bomb can only be dropped once. But money can be wielded every day with no fallout and no threat of mutually assured destruction.”—Daniel Silva, The Cellist.

I picked up The Cellist by Daniel Silva, hoping for the usual rollercoaster ride, but ended up feeling like I was stuck on a slow-moving tour bus. Look, I’m usually all in for Silva’s twists and turns, but this? This was a slog.

First off, the whole vibe’s off. We’re back with billionaire Viktor Orlov, who’s up to his neck in trouble again. His London pad, supposedly tighter than Fort Knox, gets breached on what? A rainy evening? Come on. Then there’s this journalist, conveniently dropping off the map after Orlov’s taken out by a nerve agent. And, of course, MI6 thinks she’s to blame. It’s like everyone’s lost their common sense.

Enter Gabriel Allon, art restorer and master spy, who’s got a soft spot for Orlov. He’s darting from London to Amsterdam, then Geneva—classic Silva setup, right? But instead of the cool spy craft that usually has me on the edge of my seat, we get tangled in this murky plot with the Hayden Group stirring up trouble with old-school KGB tactics. And guess what Allon is after? Big financial scandals. Thrilling? Not so much.

And don’t get me started on the COVID angle. I get it, it’s current—but it’s also everywhere. When I pick up a spy novel, I’m looking to escape, not be reminded of the evening news.

The real kicker for me was the politics. Silva wades through a swamp of political commentary, which—let’s be honest—leans pretty hard left. The Author’s Note might as well have been an op-ed piece. I’m all for a good political thriller, but the balance was off. It felt preachy, and not what I signed up for.

I usually buzz through Silva’s books, but with The Cellist, I was watching the page numbers more than the plot. It’s a 2-star from me, and that’s being generous. Here’s hoping Silva gets back to the action and leaves the policy analysis on the cutting room floor.

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