The Book of Spies
Library Journal names The Book of Spies a Best Books of the Year – TWICE!
For centuries, emperors, historians, and even the Vatican have tried to locate Ivan the Terrible’s magnificent collection of lost works – the real-life Library of Gold. Now one of the volumes, The Book of Spies, has surfaced, and along with it the highly secret book club that owns the library. They form a cabal of the globe’s most powerful men – men who will do anything to achieve their aims and protect their interests.
Somehow the CIA must do what no one else has been able to do – find the library and stop them. When it discovers a connection between the legendary library and a bank account linked to terrorists, the CIA brings in rare books curator Eva Blake to help.
Soon an attempt is made on Eva’s life, and she is on the run. Determined not only to survive but to uncover the truth, Eva turns to the one person she can trust – Judd Ryder, a former intelligence officer with a troubled past and his own agenda.
Racing from London to Rome, Istanbul to Athens, Judd and Eva must use all of their wits and skills to stay ahead of the deadly forces hunting them, find the gold-covered, bejeweled books in the priceless library, and stop the men behind both while there is still time….
“As he walked to the Senate, a note was thrust into Julius Caesar’s hand. His spies had done their job, giving him a list of conspirators and their plans to kill him. Unfortunately, Caesar was in a hurry and did not read it. An hour later, he was assassinated.” – translated from The Book of Spies
“In the abstruse world of espionage, it’s not always easy to know when you are in on a secret.” – Time magazine, January 9, 2006
A library could be a dangerous place. The librarian scanned the ten men in tailored tuxedos who lounged around the long oval table in the center of the room. Encircling them were magnificent illuminated manuscripts, more than a thousand of them, blanketing the walls from floor to ceiling. Their spectacular gold-covered bindings faced out to showcase the fortune in gems decorating them.
The men were members of the book club that owned and operated the secret Library of Gold where the annual dinner was always held. The finale was the tournament, in which each tested the librarian with a research question. As the books towered around them and the air vibrated with golden light, they sipped their cognac. Their eyes watched him.
“Trajan,” challenged the international lawyer from Los Angeles. “a.d. 53 to 117. Trajan was one of the most ambitious warrior-emperors of old Rome, but few people realize he also revered books. His supreme monument to his successes at war is called Trajan’s Column. He ordered it erected in the court between two galleries of Rome’s library — which he also built.”
The room seemed to hold its breath, waiting. The librarian’s fingers plucked at his tuxedo jacket. Nearly seventy years old, he was a tidy man with wrinkled features. His hair was thin, his glasses large, and his mouth set in a perpetual small smile.
The tension heightened as he mulled. “Of course,” he said at last. “Cassius Dio Cocceianus wrote about it.” He went to the shelves containing the eighty volumes of Cassius Dio’s history, Romaikaa, compiled in the second and third centuries and transcribed by a Byzantine calligrapher in the sixth century. “The story is here, in volume seventy-seven. Most of Cassius Dio’s work has been lost. Our library has the only complete set.”
As pleased laughter swept the exclusive group, the librarian laid the large volume into the arms of the challenger, who stroked the embedded opals and sapphires. Gazing appreciatively at the golden book, he stood it up beside his brandy glass. Eight other illuminated manuscripts stood beside eight other brandy glasses. Each was a testament to the librarian’s intimate knowledge of ancient and medieval literature and the priceless value of the library itself.
Now only the tenth member — the director himself — remained. He would pose the final question in the tournament.
The men helped themselves to more cognac. By design their yearly dinner was dazzling theater. Hours before the first martini was poured, ten wild ducks, freshly shot, had arrived by private jet from Johannesburg. The chefs were flown in from Paris, blind-folded of course. The seven-course meal was exquisite, including truffled sweetbreads with chestnuts. The alcohol was the best — tonight’s cognac was a Louis XIII de Remy Martin, worth more than $1,000 a bottle in today’s market. All of the book club’s liquors had been laid down by those who had gone before, creating a cellar of indisputable quality.
The director cleared his throat, and everyone turned to look at him. He was American and had flown in from Paris earlier in the day. The room’s tenor changed, becoming somehow menacing.
The librarian pulled himself up, vigilant.
The director peered at him. “Salah al-Din, also known as Saladin. a.d. 1137 or 1138 to 1193. General Saladin, a Kurdish Muslim, was famous for his espionage network. One night his enemy Richard the Lion-Heart went to sleep in his tent in Assyria, guarded on all sides by his English knights. They poured a track of white ash around the tent so wide no one could cross it undetected. But when Richard awoke, a melon with a dagger buried deep inside had appeared beside his bed. The blade could just as easily have been stabbed into Richard’s heart. It was Saladin’s warning, left by one of his spies. The spy escaped without leaving a clue and was never caught.”
Again the eyes watched the librarian. With every word, he had tensed. The door opened behind him quietly. He glanced over his shoulder as Douglas Preston stepped into the room. Preston was head of library security, a tall, muscular man who was an expert in weapons and took his work seriously. He was not wearing a tuxedo, instead had on his usual black leather jacket and jeans. Strangely, he carried a bath towel.
With effort, the librarian kept his voice steady as he headed across the room to another book shelf. “The story can be found in Baha al-Din’s Sirat Salah al-Din — The Life of Saladin — ”
“Of course, you’re correct,” the director interrupted. “But I want another manuscript. Bring me The Book of Spies.”
The librarian stopped, his hands reaching for the volume. He turned. The men’s faces were outraged — unforgiving.
“How did you find out?” he whispered.
No one answered. The room was so silent he could hear the tread of crepe-soled shoes. Before he could turn again, Preston’s beach towel slapped around his skull, covering his eyes and mouth. There was a huge explosion of gunfire, and pain erupted in his head. As he fell, he realized the security chief had given him fair warning by using a technique of the later Assassins — the towel was to cover the entrance and exit wounds to control spraying blood and bone. The book club knew that.