The Confessor (novel)
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|Genre||Crime, Mystery, Thriller|
|Publisher||G. P. Putnam's Sons (US)|
|Preceded by||The English Assassin|
|Followed by||A Death in Vienna|
It is the third step on the Gabriel Allon series.
Gabriel Allon is tasked to investigate the murder of scholar Benjamin Stern in Munich. The lack of Stern's computer and other documents indicate that he was not killed for being a Jew — but rather for his current research. But Stern kept his research secret, so that Allon must solve a homicide with almost no clues.
Meanwhile, the death of Pope John Paul II has led to a conclave at the Vatican. The new pope, Pietro Lucchesi, who calls himself Paul VII, immediately angers powerful members of the Vatican by announcing his desire to speak at the synagogue of Rome. Opponents, such as Cardinal Marco Brindisi suspect that Paul VII intends to unearth candid and potentially damaging information about the role of the Catholic Church during the Holocaust.
Cardinal Brindisi is also the spiritual leader of a group called Crux Vera, a secret society established to defend the reputation and power of the Catholic Church at all costs. Roberto Pucci serves as the financial executive while Carlo Cassagrande, a former general within the Carabinieri, sees to security matters. The society enjoys considerable power within the Vatican. Because of their zealous commitment to the church, they vehemently oppose any policy that could darken the church’s reputation. Allon’s independent homicide investigation further complicates this dilemma, for the clues that he seeks will connect the Crux Vera to Stern's death. As a result, the brotherhood must eliminate everyone that might inform Allon of Stern's death and of the society’s existence.
The search for a motive for Stern's death leads Allon to the village of Brenzone on Lake Garda in northern Italy. There he learns that Stern had visited the local Convent of the Sacred Heart and contacts its superior, Mother Vincenza. She affirms that Stern had met with her to research places where Jews sought refuge during the Holocaust and she shows Allon a basement where Jews purportedly stayed. However, an unidentified caller warns Allon that Mother Vincenza is lying and that the truth can only be found through Sister Regina and another person by the name of Martin Luther. Upon Allon’s departure, Mother Vincenza secretly informs Crux Vera of Allon’s visit.
Stern’s murderer is a professional hitman from Switzerland named Eric ‘Leopard’ Lange, from whom Cassagrande commissions yet another murder. To Achille Bartoletti of the Italian police, Cassagrande paints Allon as a would-be papal assassin. Cassagrande thus gains control not only over the Vatican police but also over its Italian counterpart.
Allon meets with Rabbi Zolli in Venice and encounters his daughter Chiara Zolli for the first time. Zolli explains that to his knowledge no Jews were harboured in the Brenzone abbey. In fact, evidence seems to suggest the opposite: that the church expedited the removal of Jews and later helped Nazi leaders escape judgement. Allon then travels to Vienna to inform his colleague Eli Lavon of his findings. Eli reveals that the Martin Luther in question was the Nazi director of the German Foreign Office, which collaborated with European governments to track down and remove Jews. According to Eli, the Nazis especially wished to maintain positive relations with the Vatican, for any denunciation of the Holocaust by a pope would have certainly made the Nazis’ work more difficult. Allon and Eli conclude that there must be some connection between Nazi leader Martin Luther and the Convent of the Sacred Heart.
Upon discovering that Stern consulted with British journalist Peter Malone, Allon travels to London. Malone tells Allon that his recent book about Crux Vera had raised Stern's interest. Stern also hired Malone to track down two missing priests who were presumed dead and that the Roman police detective Alessio Rossi had been forced to close his files about their cases. Malone suggests that Crux Vera orchestrated Stern’s death to keep further details about the society’s identity and secrets from being published. Shortly after Allon leaves Malone, Eric Lange arrives and kills the journalist. As Lange leaves Malone’s flat, an Israeli surveillance technician gets a picture of the elusive Leopard, who soon consults with the professional terrorist Rashid Husseini, from whom he learns Allon’s true identity. Lange anticipates that Allon will seek out detective Alessio Rossi and hires Husseini to follow Rossi until Allon surfaces. Allon contacts Rossi in Rome, who surmises that the disappearance of the two missing priests points to a cover up within the Vatican. The arrival of a special police unit at Allon's hotel cuts short their discussion. Police shoot at the two fleeing men, killing Rossi and wounding Allon. Chiara Zolli rescues Allon and reveals that she also works for the Mossad and has been monitoring Allon throughout his investigation.
The investigation of Stern’s death now comes to the attention of Shimon Pazner, the Mossad's katsa in Rome, who sees no other option but to deport him to Israel. However, Zolli feels that Allon must not abandon the investigation. They board Allon’s deportation boat, navigate to the Provence to meet with Antonia Huber, the daughter of Sister Regina Carcassi. The former delivers an account of a clandestine meeting between Nazi agents and members of the Vatican on the premises of the Brenzone abbey. In this meeting, members of the Curia assured the cooperation of the Vatican with Martin Luther’s removal of the Jews. Sister Regina, who witnessed the meeting, did not share her knowledge with anyone, but instead, wrote the account. Huber confides to Allon that she also gave a copy of the letter to Stern. The letter proves that the missing priests were present at the meeting, and Huber adds that her mother was later murdered.
Allon feels certain that the series of disappearances and murders relates to the pact between Nazi and Curia elements. Back in Munich, Allon finds a Nazi document that links the Holy See to Martin Luther’s removal of the Jews. Both return to Vienna to meet with Eli and Shamron, Allon's superior at the Mossad. Shamron notifies Allon of the pope’s intention to speak at the synagogue of Rome and surmises that the pope’s mission and life is in danger from the same people that killed Stern. He urges Allon to personally share the documents with the pope and to safeguard the pope. Meanwhile Crux Vera has again hired hitman Eric Lange, this time with the purpose of killing the pope at the synagogue.
Through his contacts in the art restoration community, Allon secures a private audience with Pope Paul VII. The pope attests to the verity of the documents and cites his own personal testimony, for he himself, like Sister Regina, had overheard the terrible meeting at the Convent of the Sacred Heart while living as an orphan in the abbey. The pope’s determination to speak at the synagogue stems from his conviction that the Catholic Church has many offenses to confess to the Jews. Paul VII ignores Allon’s admonition to cancel the appointment at the synagogue and instead suggests that Allon personally accompany him within the pope’s security team.
Surprisingly, the pope’s speech at the synagogue proves uneventful. But at the very same time Cassagrande secretly renounces his role in the pope’s assassination and instead hires Lange to kill its instigator, Marco Brindisi. Cassagrande then commits suicide. Allon arrives a few seconds late at the crime scene but manages to pursue Lange on a motorbike. But in the narrow alleys of Trastevere Lange manages to escape, while Allon crashes on the street's pavement and tumbles hard. His wounds are critical and Paul VII himself provides him with the attention of the pope’s personal medical staff. When Allon recovers, it is clear that he and Chiara have developed romantic feelings for each other.
Meanwhile, details of Brindisi and Cassagrande’s plot are leaked to the press. The story links Pucci to Crux Vera and eventually destroys his financial empire. Although the pope chooses to protect the church by denying the newspaper’s findings, he seizes the opportunity to rid the Curia of members of the Crux Vera. Shamron returns to Tel Aviv and creates Team Leopard, a task force devoted to identifying and killing Eric Lange. The story ends months later when Allon personally locates and kills Lange.
Silva, Daniel. The Confessor. Signet: 2004, 480 pages.
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