The Twelfth Imam

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The Twelfth Imam
First edition
AuthorJoel C. Rosenberg
CountryUnited States
PublisherTyndale House Publishers
Publication date
October 19, 2010
Media typePrint (hardcover)
Pages512 (hardcover edition)

The Twelfth Imam is a Christian fiction book written by Joel C. Rosenberg. It revolves around the story of a CIA operative who destroys Iran's nuclear capability.[1][2][3]


The plot revolves around David Shirazi, a young CIA operative of Persian descent, who is assigned to stop Iran from developing nuclear power.


The story starts in Iran in 1979 during the takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran. Charlie Harper, an American Foreign Service Officer who was outside the embassy during the takeover, and his wife Claire, seek the help of their neighbors, cardiologist Mohammad Shirazi and his wife Nasreen, a translator at the Canadian embassy to escape capture. Through the help of the Canadian embassy and the CIA, the two couples succeed in escaping and making their way to the United States. Dr. Shirazi and his wife later become the parents of David, the main character in the book.

Main plot[edit]

The story then jumps to 2001, with teenager David going on a camping trip with his father and brothers, his father's medical colleagues, and Charlie and his daughter Marseille, a teenager to whom David is attracted. At first, David and Marseille do not get along well, but soon become good friends. This friendship turns into a relationship when Marseille kisses David in an A-frame the two discovered a few days earlier. The next day, David and Marseille are in the A-frame again, talking about important subjects such as God, politics and parents. However, when David is not looking, Marseille falls asleep on a bed. David lies beside her and falls asleep as well.

A few hours later, the two wake up next to each other. Marseille looks at David with a fiery passion and asks him about what her parents did in Iran in 1979, as she has never heard the story. Still lying down, David explains the ordeal of how the couple escaped illegally from the country. Marseille is fascinated. In the moment, David's watch goes off, signalling it is time for dinner. But Marseille does not want him to leave. She convinces him to stay. In the course of time, the two begin to make out with each other. They enjoy the experience and wake up the next day ready to leave the camping grounds.

As the planes come in to pick the group up, the pilot steps out and explains that just a few days earlier, the September 11 attacks had occurred. When Marseille hears this she bursts into tears, as her mother, Claire, was a banker at the World Trade Center. A few weeks later, a memorial service is held for Claire. This is the last time David sees Marseille. He sends her letters that go unanswered. After a few months, David gives up. His grades plummet, he gets into fights often, and even gets sent to juvenile detention.

Meanwhile, in Tehran, Iran, a Muslim named Hosseini is taking his children to a military camp. He gives them each a red plastic key and sends them out over a mine field. All the children step on mines and perish. Hosseini has done this so that his children could be martyrs. He is proud of his act when suddenly, he wakes up to realize it was all a dream. He at first thinks it never happened. Then he realizes it was all too real as it occurred 18 years ago. His wife is crying on the floor remembering the loss. Hosseini comforts her when she cries blasphemy to all Muslims. Hosseini steps back a moment, shocked. His wife had just made herself no longer a Muslim. Hosseini goes to his drawer and pulls and a double-action revolver. He shoots his wife, who dies instantly. Hosseini's servants come into the room to find a dead woman on the floor. The body is buried, and Hosseini goes back to sleep.

Back with David, on his last day in juvenile detention, a man comes to speak to him. His name is Jack. He is from the CIA and offers David a job to "bring Osama bin Laden's head in a box". David wants revenge as he figures that Marseille's life was ruined by her mother's death. He wants to kill the man who did it so he accepts the offer. After David finishes his last semester at boarding school in Alabama, Jack comes to pick him up to give him his first assignment to hunt down bin Laden. He does not enjoy the work as much as he had expected. Nor does he like the next assignment, or the next, or the one after that. In the end, seven years of boring jobs come and go.


It is now the present year. David learns of a big assignment coming up. He is briefed for nearly eight hours in a conference room with Eva, a fellow CIA agent, who will be accompanying him. After the briefing is finished, Jack tells the two to "get lost" for the weekend. Eva leaves to go see her family and David goes to visit his parents. They talk, visit and catch up on each other's news and the weekend is soon over. Just as he is about to leave, his mother gives him a bag of mail addressed to him. One letter particularly stands out as it is from Marseille. It has now been nine years since 9/11 when he last saw her. He is about to open it but stops and puts it in the bag because he is worried that she may be mad at him in the letter.

He goes through security and gets onto his flight to Dubai the next day. With some smooth talking, he gets the stewardess to give him the last seat in business class. About halfway through the flight, he goes back to the bag of letters. He finds the letter from Marseille. He is worried about opening it but goes ahead anyway. To his surprise, Marseille is actually coming to Syracuse in a month, and would like to talk with him over coffee. David is thrilled and realizes he still might have a chance. When David arrives in Dubai, Eva greets him and tells him they need to go to Tehran. He would like to call Marseille, but there is no time. They rush to the flight and are soon in Iran.

The next day in Tehran, David and Eva meet with the CEO of a major Iranian telecoms company. The man is not very happy and is rather angry with them. He storms off while shouting profanity at his secretary. She is left in shambles but David comforts her and gives her his business card.

Time passes and David takes part in a number of different missions. He saves the world from nuclear destruction and links up with Marseille once again, and this is where the book ends.


  1. ^ Schuessler, Jennifer (29 October 2010). "Inside the List". New York Times. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  2. ^ Fiction Book Review: The Twelfth Imam by Joel Rosenberg, Publishers Weekly
  3. ^ Reviews of The Twelfth Imam, Washington Country Cooperative Library Services.