The Messenger by Daniel Silva (♦♦♦♦½)

Ali Massoudi, a reputed professor suspected of being a recruiter for al-Qaeda, is followed by Office personnel in London and meets his untimely death by accident. Among his possessions is his laptop which, when booted up, reveals photographs detailing surveillance on Vatican’s security measures. That leads experts at the Office to conclude that an attack on this target is imminent. The spectacular attack takes place the day after Gabriel arrives in the Vatican accompanied by Luigi Donati, the pope’s secretary.

After the attack Gabriel goes back to the Office where the investigation begins. The trail leads to a Saudi formerly linked to the security services whose political luck ran out and now offers his services to the highest bidder. The trail also leads to Zizi al-Bakari, a Saudi billionaire with ties to the House of Saud who is the biggest contributor to the cause of terrorism against Christians and Israel. When all those leads are put together the only conclusion is to rid the world of these two men, but that’s easier said than done because one is a consummated professional spy and the other has more security than some heads of state.

With the help of Adrian Carter, Gabriel infiltrates an American woman, who happens to be an art expert, on Zizi’s entourage, but when her cover is blown her life is in jeopardy and the death they’re planning for her is slow and painful.

 I really liked this book. The Messenger has more suspense than all its predecessors in the series combined; I confess I was on the verge of biting my nails when Sarah Bancroft was on Zizi’s entourage because his security personnel didn’t allow her to wander off without them and they were always making those edgy threats that curdle the blood.

Even though the book is great, the first part titled “The Door of Death” referring to a door in St Peter’s Basilica, feels somewhat disconnected from everything that happens after. It is that after the investigation took flight I almost forgot that an attack in the Vatican had taken place.

The character of Zizi al-Bakari is the father of Nadia al-Bakari, the woman with “impeccable jihadist credentials” at the center of the installment Portrait of a Spy.

So many things happen in The Messenger, one of them being an attempt on Ari Shamron’s life. It was heartbreaking for me because, together with Gabriel and Julian, Ari is my most favorite character in the series. Thank God “he is eternal” as they all so often say. Another important sub-plot is that Gabriel’s cover is blown for good so he can’t accept to head Special Operations, and finally he gathers the courage to tell Leah that he is in love with Chiara and wants to marry her.

In summary, nail-biting suspense and international intrigue of the highest order are the hallmarks of The Messenger.

Favorite Quotes:
Patience and follow-through aren’t typical American virtues. You like to make a mess and move on to the next problem.” Page 142

I need a Van Gogh, Julian.
Don’t we all, petal.” Page 159

It’s always fascinated me, Adrian, this ludicrous need of ours to be powerful and loved at the same time. The American president reached halfway around the world and toppled the ruler of Mesopotamia in an afternoon. Not even Caesar could manage that. And now he wants to be adored by those who oppose him. The sooner we stop worrying about being liked, the better off we’ll be.” Page 372