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Daniel Silva has written some excellent espionage/covert ops books in the Gabriel Allon series and this is one of the best. Gabriel Allon is one of the most fascinating characters in modern espionage fiction. He operates in two quite distinct worlds, that of a world renowned art restorer and that of a senior operative of Israel's Security Intelligence Service - "the Office". He is a skilled artist in both worlds, one very gentle and the other, while still very skilled, at times can be very violent.
Allon is once again pulled out of retirement with news that jihad bombers may be targeting the Vatican. This sets Gabriel and his team from the Office on a chase to find the mastermind for the bombers, thought to be Ahmed bin Shafiq, a former chief of a clandestine Saudi intelligence unit, who has set up his own "Jihad Incorporated" organisation,. They believe that bin Shafiq has been bankrolled by Saudi billionaire Abdul Aziz al-Bakari, better known just as Zizi, who is known for his expensive tastes especially for his valuable collection of Impressionist paintings.
Gabriel plans to infiltrate Zizi's entourage by using a missing Impressionist painting as bait, and hopefully identify bin Shafiq who has not been seen for years. To do this he needs to find someone to deliver the bait and goes to Adrian Carter, a top CIA operative. for help. Carter is a very old school spook and generates my favourite quote of the book "According to office wits (at the CIA) Carter left chalk marks on the bedpost when he wanted to make love to his wife". Carter finds beautiful and very brave art expert Sarah Bancroft to set the bait.
The action moves from Jerusalem to Rome, Venice, Washington, London, Paris, the Bahamas and back to Rome. In the course of the action Gabriel gets close up and personal to the Pope and the US President.. Silva provides us with explosive endings but in the process creates a future threat to world peace to make sure that Gabriel will not go into permanent retirement.
I revisited this book because it was discounted recently as an e-book daily deal for pocket-change. I am glad I did as it is still one of the best of the series and although it is 8 years since it was first published the content hasn't dated.