May 06, 2002 12:00 PM

By Daniel Silva

This international thriller has a gripping start, a jumpy middle and a satisfactory, if quiet, conclusion. Too bad it’s missing a climax.

Israeli agent and art restorer Gabriel Allon, on a mission involving Swiss banks that laundered Nazi plunder, arrives in Zurich to restore a Raphael for a Swiss banker, Augustus Rolfe. But Rolfe is dead. This sets Allon hopscotching, often confusingly, around Europe in chapters as short as one page. Allon must catch the killer before he does his next job, on Rolfe’s violinist daughter.

Curiously, Allon, a ruthless operative, gets tummy troubles when he shoots people, and the assassin’s bizarre choice at the moment of truth is never explained. Silva wants to be the next Frederick Forsyth or John Le Carré, but he’s literally all over the map. (Putnam, $25.95)

Bottom Line: Swiss cheese for a plot

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