Milan's chief prosecutor is killed when his car is pushed off a narrow mountain road, the city's mayor is shot by an assassin on the steps of his office building, and an abbot and his librarian are killed in a monastery. This occurs days before Chief Inspector Mauro Bruno, whose father is one of the victims, comes to Milan to arrange for the funeral. Suspicious by nature and generally acknowledged within the Polizia di Stato as being the best detective in Italy, Bruno uncovers clues that lead him to believe that a man known throughout Italy as the patriarch, the head of the wealthiest and most powerful family in the country, is behind these murders. But he needs proof. He soon discovers that that the reason for these killings resides within centuries-old papers stored within the Vatican's secret archives, to which only the pope has access. Hunted by the patriarch's men, Bruno attempts to stay alive long enough to find out what the patriarch and the Vatican have been hiding for seven centuries, and why a multibillionaire is willing to risk everything to protect that secret.