When last we encountered Gabriel Allon, the legendary spy and assassin for the Israeli secret service, he was recovering from his blood-soaked duel with Palestinian master-terrorist Khaled al-Khalifa. Blown, wanted for questioning by the French police for his role in the terrorist bombing of a Paris train station, his options are few: to live out his life in hiding in Israel, or to accept a job at Headquarters he does not want.
But when a reform-minded Arab academic dies under mysterious circumstances in London, Gabriel is suddenly presented with a third option. Israeli intelligence knows the professor was not a reformist but a recruiter for a shadowy terrorist group affiliated with al-Qaeda—and surveillance photos discovered on his computer indicate that the group is planning to attack the world’s most visible symbol of Christianity: the Vatican. Gabriel delivers the warning to his old friend, Monsignor Luigi Donati, the Pope’s private secretary, who has been summoned to Jerusalem to see the evidence for himself. When Donati asks Gabriel to come to Rome to assist in the security for a papal General Audience, Gabriel accepts the assignment without hesitation. What neither Donati or Gabriel know then is that the Vatican has been thoroughly penetrated by the forces of global Islamic militancy—and that they will both soon find themselves in the center of the most devastating terrorist attack since 9/11.
In the days that follow, Gabriel and his colleagues in Tel Aviv and Washington patiently sift through intelligence about the mysterious group that claims responsibility for the attack. All the clues point to a single source: Saudi Arabia. More specifically, to two men: a Saudi intelligence officer named Ahmed Bin Shafiq, and a world-famous Saudi billionaire and art collector named Abdul Aziz al-Bakari. Bin Shafiq and al-Bakari are problems that, for political and economic reasons, the Americans are ill-equipped to deal with. And so the American president and his CIA operations chief ask Gabriel to undertake an mission on their behalf. Penetrate al-Bakari’s inner circle, find Ahmed Bin Shafiq, and kill him before he can strike again. Gabriel accepts the assignment, for he has been touched personally by the new wave of terror. His friend and mentor, the legendary Israeli spymaster Ari Shamron, has been targeted as well and lies near death in a Jerusalem hospital.
Armed with a lost Van Gogh masterpiece, and a courageous young American curator named Sarah Bancroft, Gabriel sets out to penetrate the inner circle of a man who is nothing if not the Chairman and CEO of Jihad Incorporated. And soon he will find himself in a deadly duel of wits with a Saudi master-terrorist that will take him from an art gallery in London, to a Caribbean island paradise, to a secluded valley in the heart of Switzerland, and finally back to the Vatican, where the lives of a Pope and a President will be decided by the outcome.