Comfortably at work as an art restorer, Gabriel Allon receives "credible evidence" that a plot against the Vatican exists. As a highly trained Israeli operative working for the enigmatically named "Office," he cannot ignore this latest information. Reluctantly, he sets down his brushes and takes up his weapons against a group of deadly terrorists. If he is to save the Pope, he must work fast. Time is very short --- maybe too short. While Gabriel is able to at least thwart their plans, he is unable to stop a great deal of death and destruction.
Horrified, he returns to Israel with an idea already forming in his mind. He believes he knows who is behind the spectacular attacks. And he knows he is among the few who can stop them before they do more senseless killing. But before he can work out all the details, someone very close to him becomes the latest victim, awakening his full wrath. His fierce loyalty lights a passion that burns strong, and he vows to hunt the killers down. He has lost so much to terrorists and swears he will not allow the loss of any more. Gabriel's target: a vicious chameleon named Ahmed bin Shafiq. Many trips to the plastic surgeon have made visual identification of bin Shafiq unreliable, but his voice is unalterable. Technology can unmask him. Now it's just a matter of someone getting close to him.
Gabriel and his crew devise a scheme to infiltrate Jihad, Incorporated, through its leader, Zizi al-Bakari. Zizi's weakness: Impressionist art. So what would happen if this man were to get word of, say, an as-yet-undiscovered van Gogh? Gabriel believes it would be irresistible. And it would be the first step to getting someone inside the terrorist organization. The someone that he has in mind is a beautiful young American, Sarah Bancroft. Smart, courageous, educated, and still mourning a love she lost on September 11, 2001, she is an eager candidate for the job.
To pull off the coup he has in mind, Gabriel must enlist help where he can find it. Fortunately, he has friends in high places around the world. Adrian Carter, a U.S. government agent, is willing, but he has, shall we say, diplomatic limitations. As he so succinctly puts it: "Americans don't have the stomach or the backbone to do the things we have to do to win this fight.... They want to bury their heads in the sand and pretend that there really isn't an organized force in their world that is actively plotting and planning their destruction."
Adrian must be judicious in his alliances, though, particularly ones unfriendly to Saudis, his country's honored guests. Only Gabriel has the means and the will to do what must be done.
What follows is a spectacular global chase, for plans hit a snag, as they often do, and Sarah finds herself an unwilling guest of Jihad, Incorporated. They have some very nasty plans for her, if they let her live that long. Gabriel may have to make a choice between saving Sarah and killing bin Shafiq.
Daniel Silva is not only an extraordinary writer of spy thrillers, but he must be a prophet in addition. It eerily feels like he has written the future in THE MESSENGER, and a very scary future it is.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 7, 2011