When he is assigned to Paris, CIA officer Tommy Carmellini joins his old boss Jake Grafton on a bold mission: To locate a French intelligence agent who has secret investments in the Bank of Palestine. Together they work to unravel a tangle of espionage, deception, and murder…and develop an elaborate strategy to infiltrate the highest levels of Al Queda.
Meanwhile, the leaders of the G-8 industrialized nations will soon meet in Parisan event that would make a tempting terrorist target. Throw into the mix the beautiful, clever daughter of the French ambassador to Washington and an Israeli spy or two, and the stage is set for a tour de force of deception and drama.
Soon Carmellini and Grafton unearth a horrifying plan to shake the West as never before. But can they stop the conspiracy without compromising the intelligence source that could bring down Al Queda once and for all?
About the Author
STEPHEN COONTS is the author of thirteen New York Times bestselling books, which have been translated and republished around the world. A former naval aviator and Vietnam combat veteran, he is a graduate of West Virginia University and the University of Colorado School of Law. He and his wife live in Nevada.
Date of Birth:July 19, 1946
Place of Birth:Morgantown, West Virginia
Education:B.A., West Virginia University, 1968; J.D., University of Colorado, 1979
Read an Excerpt
By Stephen Coonts
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2006 Stephen Coonts
All rights reserved.
Maurice Marton died of a heart attack thirty-seven thousand feet above the Mediterranean. He did it quietly, the same way he had lived his life. He felt a sudden, severe chest pain, couldn't breathe, and reached for the call light above his seat. As he looked up, gasping, groping for the button, his heart quit beating altogether. Maurice Marton slumped in his firstclass airline seat. By chance, he was in a window seat and his head sagged toward the window. Also by chance, the aisle seat beside him was empty.
It was several minutes before the flight attendant noticed Marton. The man was slumped down, facing the window, and although his eyes were open, the attendant couldn't see them and thought he was asleep. As is customary in first class, he let him sleep.
A half hour later as the aircraft began its descent into Amman, the seat-belt light came on. It was then that the flight attendant tried to wake his sleeping passenger. As soon as he saw the open, unfocused, frozen eyes, he knew the man was dead.
An old hand at the business, the attendant felt for Marton's pulse. Finding none, he covered the man with a blanket and turned his head back toward the window.
The plane made a normal landing in Amman, and after the other passengers were off the plane, a doctor and two policemen came aboard. As the senior cabin attendant watched, they loaded the corpse onto a stretcher and carried it off.
With the airplane empty of people, the senior attendant removed Marton's attaché case from the storage compartment over his head and opened it. The case was crammed full, mostly letters and spreadsheets and a few printed statements. Roughly half were in French and half in Arabic. The attendant sat down and began rapidly scanning the documents.
Three weeks after the death of Maurice Marton, a man from the American embassy entered a nondescript building in Tel Aviv and was ushered to a basement room. The walls, floor and ceiling were poured concrete. A naked bulb on a wire hung from the ceiling over the only desk, a small, scarred steel one that at some time in the historic past had been painted a robin's egg blue. Behind the desk was a tanned man with close-cropped brown hair wearing a white short-sleeved shirt. He had a comfortable tummy, and a firm grip when he shook hands.
"Good to see you, Harris. How was Washington?"
"A steam bath," the American said. "With a whole continent to play with, they managed to put the capital in a place that's cold, damp and miserable in the winter, and hot, humid and miserable in the summer."
"I've never been there. Should I make the trip someday?"
"Only if the airfare is free."
The men were seated now. The host said, "I have a story that I thought would interest your colleagues."
"Anything that interests the Mossad will interest my crowd," Harris replied candidly.
"On the twenty-seventh of last month, a French intelligence agent named Maurice Marton died on an Air France flight between Parisand Amman. Had a heart attack, apparently, and quietly expired. In his attaché case were some interesting documents that I would like to share with you." The host picked up a small stack of paper and handed it to his guest.
The American examined the sheets carefully. They were obviously copies. After a few minutes, he remarked, "I understand most of the French, I think — it's been a few years since college — but my Arabic is a little rusty. It appears someone named Henri Rodet is buying stock in the Bank of Palestine, two million euros' worth."
"I think so, yes," murmured the Israeli. "Do you recognize the name?"
"Henri Rodet is the head of the DGSE." The Direction Générale de la Sécurité Exteriéure was the French intelligence agency.
Harris lowered the sheets and stared at his host. He blinked several times. "Really!"
Harris spent another minute scanning the documents, then raised his head and said, "They'll want to know how you got these."
"As I said, Marton, a career clerk in DGSE headquarters, was on his way to Amman, presumably to do this deal for his boss, Rodet. He died en route. One of our men got his hands on Marton's attaché case, saw that these documents were of interest, and managed to run the originals through a copier and return them to the case."
"Luck," muttered Harris.
"On rare occasions that sprite does indeed smile," the Israeli said casually. He said that to be polite; the only kind of luck he believed in was the kind you made for yourself. The men and women of the Mossad used every morsel of wit and guile they could muster, and every penny of their budget, to keep agents in place in key positions in Cairo, Amman, Damascus, Beirut, Riyadh and two dozen other places around the globe. Because agents were there, in place, good things could happen. Good things had to happen for Israel. Without timely, accurate, reliable intelligence for its decision makers, the nation would cease to exist.
The American settled himself to study the documents in detail. When he finished he put the sheets back on the desk.
"You may have those," the Israeli said.
Harris folded the sheets carefully. "You are convinced these are genuine?"
"Marton was very dead, right there in a first-class seat. From all appearances, it was a natural death."
"Why first class? Why not coach?"
"The French government bought the ticket. Air France upgraded it because there was room in the front of the plane."
After Harris placed the copies in his trouser pocket, he asked, "Did your man raise any suspicions?"
"He thought not. The attaché case and the dead man's luggage were held by the airline. After his family was notified, a man arrived on the next day's flight and claimed them."
"Claude Bruguiere. We believe he, too, is DGSE."
"And what did he do with the attaché case?"
"This happened in Amman," the Mossad officer explained. He spread his hands. "We have limited assets, as you know."
"So you're not going to share that." It was a statement, not a question.
The Mossad officer smiled.
The American intelligence officer scratched his head, then smoothed his hair. He didn't have much; the motion was an old habit. Finally he stood and stuck out his hand. "Thanks for the information," he said.
"You're welcome," the Israeli replied as he pumped Harris' hand.
"You've opened a whole can of worms, you know."
"The worms were already there, my friend."
"I suppose so," Harris said.
* * *
By pure coincidence, the day the American named Harris had his interview with a senior Mossad official, a well-dressed man in his late forties or early fifties joined a group of tourists waiting for a guided tour of the Château de Versailles, the Sun King's palace that is today in the southwestern suburbs of metropolitan Paris.
The man had a dark complexion, as if he spent much of his life in the sun. Of medium height, he was perfectly shaved and barbered, with a lean, spare frame that showcased the dark gray tailored Italian suit he wore. He wore handmade leather shoes; on his wrist was an expensive Swiss watch. His deep blue tie was muted and understated, the perfect accent for a wealthy man in the upper echelons of international society, which was, of course, precisely what the man was.
An American college professor on sabbatical spoke to the man in heavily accented French, asking if he had ever before toured the palace. He replied with a hint of a smile, in perfect French, that indeed he had, although many years had passed since his last visit. The professor, a single woman who had always been enthralled by France and all things French, gave the man her absolute best smile.
He answered it by discussing the history of the palace as they waited for the professional guide. He knew so much about the palace that the American asked, "Are you a scholar?"
"A businessman, madame," he said with another hint of a smile. The lady thought him charming. She would have asked more questions, but the guide showed up and launched into a canned speech, and a minute later the group straggled off after her.
The American woman stayed close to the well-dressed man in the dark gray suit. Occasionally, when the guide glossed over some fact that the woman thought might be intriguing, she asked the man, who knew the answers.
The group — there were several dozen tourists, mostly couples — made their way through the palace. They worked their way throughthe north wing, looking in on L'Opéra, the site of the marriage of the future Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, the Chapelle Royale and the picture galleries, then made their way into the center section of the palace. The guide led the group through the library, the Cabinet du Conseil, and the king's bedroom. From there they went to the queen's bedroom, where the queens of France gave birth to their children as members of the court watched with bated breath.
"That way there could be no question as to who was the lawful heir to the throne," the man whispered to the American, who was slightly appalled at the public nature of what she considered a very private event.
From there, finally, they entered the Hall of Mirrors, the great room of state for eighteenth-century France. "In fact," the guide intoned in heavily accented English, "this room is still used for great state occasions. For example, in 1919 the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I was ratified in this room."
It was a huge room, about eighty yards long, with a high, vaulted ceiling covered in gold leaf. The long wall on the exterior side of the building was perforated with tall arched windows, from which one could gaze in awe at the magnificent gardens behind the palace. The opposite wall was lined with mirrors, and the entire room was lit with dozens of dazzling chandeliers.
"Very impressive," the American lady whispered to her fellow tourist.
He nodded in agreement, and stood rooted as the group moved on.
This is the place, the man thought.
They will be here before the cameras, surrounded by television crews, reporters and security guards. The world will be watching.
We will kill them here.CHAPTER 2
How would you like to do a month in France?" my boss, Blinky Wooten, asked. We were seated in his office at the Special Collection Service, or SCS, on Springfield Road in Beltsville, Maryland. The SCS was the bureaucratic successor to the National Security Service's Division D and was a joint CIA/NSA effort. Our job was to find the easiest and cheapest way to collect the intelligence necessary for national survival in the modern world. Since I wasn't a scientist, by default I ended up a grunt in the electronic wars.
It was October, and the weather on the East Coast was glorious, the leaves were changing, and football season was in full swing. After four months in Iraq, the place looked like God's garden. I was in no hurry to leave. On the other hand, I do have to work for a living.
France. I shrugged. "At the embassy? Sure."
"Huh-uh. As an illegal. The embassy is full as a tick right now. France is going to host the summit meeting of the G-8 leaders at the end of the month. Our people are working with the Secret Service and FBI on a temporary basis to ensure it goes off without any incidents." Terrorist incidents, he meant.
"If I'm going to stand around wearing a lapel mike and lookingtough, why the cloak-and-dagger? I could just pretend to be Tommy Carmellini, loyal federal wage slave."
"I don't think they need any more door decorations. They have something else in mind for you."
Hoo boy! Like every other nation on earth, France has laws against espionage, conspiracy, theft, and breaking and entering, which is, by definition, what spies are employed to do. When sent overseas, most CIA officers in ops and tech services were assigned to an embassy or consulate staff, and consequently enjoyed diplomatic immunity if they were caught violating the laws of the host nation. As an illegal, I wouldn't have diplomatic immunity as a safety net.
But I was used to dancing on the high wire without a net. The SCS staff flitted here and there all over the world, installing antennas, breaking into computer facilities, bugging embassies and consulates, bribing systems administrators, that kind of thing. In and out fast, like an Italian government, was usually the best way. "I've heard that France is a friendly country, more or less," I remarked.
"Well, if they catch you red-handed, they probably won't give you a firing party, with a blindfold and last cigarette," Blinky said judiciously, "but they might rough you up a bit." He looked at me over his glasses while he batted his eyelids another twenty or thirty times. He was sensitive about his nervous habit, or tic, so no one called him Blinky to his face. I averted my eyes so he wouldn't think I was staring.
I focused on a golf ball he had glued to a tee on his desk — a sacred, hole-in-one ball — as I pondered my options. If a fellow is going to make his living as a spy, France is probably as good as it gets. La belle France — great food, nice climate, fine wine, and the world's most beautiful women. On the other hand, France is the home of the French ...
A woman I knew had tickets to all the Redskins home games. She enjoyed my company. She had bought the tickets, so I bought the beer and hot dogs. She was also really cute. "I just got back from Iraq two weeks ago," I pointed out, quite unnecessarily. Blinky knew damn well where I'd been and when I'd returned.
"You volunteered for France." He rooted in a file on his desk and came up with a sheet of paper. "See, here it is." He fluttered it where I could see it.
"That was a dream sheet I filled out years ago," I remarked, and waved a hand in dismissal. All this drama was for show, of course. The heavies cared not a whit whether I was happy in my work; Blinky could send me to any spot on the planet with a stroke of his pen.
"As I recall, when I volunteered I wanted a chance to make a personal contribution that would improve our relations with our French allies. I was thinking along the lines of assistant passport officer at the embassy, black-tie diplomatic parties, meeting a few nice French girls, invitations to the country for the weekend —"
"You've been watching too many movies," Blinky said crisply. "The new head of European Ops asked for you by name."
I was dubious. My stock at the agency hadn't been very high since that disaster with the retired KGB archivist who defected the summer before last. "What's his name?" I asked, trying to keep my skepticism from showing.
Uh-oh! I ran across Jake Grafton a few years ago in Cuba, and he and I had crossed paths a few times since. He had my vote as the toughest son of a bitch wearing shoe leather. He was the man the folks in the Ering of the Pentagon and over at the White House handed the ball to when things got really rough. "I thought he retired?"
"From the Navy. He's working for the company now. But what the hey, if you don't want to go to France, we can ship you back to Iraq — they're asking for you, too."
I was underwhelmed. "I work too cheap," I remarked.
Blinky ignored that crack. "So which will it be?"
It wasn't as if I were being asked to hang it out on a secret mission behind the Iron or Bamboo Curtain. Blinky was talking France, for God's sake, the good-living capital of the world, where snootiness was de rigueur and fleecing tourists a way of life. Still, the folks in the DGSE played hardball. That agency was the successor to the Service de Documentation Extérieur et de Contre-Espionage, the SDECE, the spy agency de Gaulle founded after World War II. The name was changed after the SDECE's reputation for murder, kidnapping and torture became a political liability. The same kind, gentle, in-tight-with-Jesus Samaritans were still there, however.
"Eenie, meenie, minie, moe ... France."
"How's your French, anyway?"
"Voulez-vous couchez avec moi?"
"Fluent," he muttered, and launched into an explanation of my assignment. London first for a briefing, then France.
A few minutes later Blinky stood and held out his hand. That was my signal to leave. "Try not to get caught," he said as he pumped my hand perfunctorily.
Excerpted from The Traitor by Stephen Coonts. Copyright © 2006 Stephen Coonts. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A very decent and entertaining espionage story! Not quite up toDaniel Silva's Gabriel Allon series, or the Jack Reacher character, but entertaining and worth the money. I'll try another one.
A servicable thriller. One of Neil's favorites.
Just read the prologue and chapter one. Did not seem intriguing to me. I was looking for a story that pulled me in.
I read really good books really fast - I can't put them down! This one kept getting put down, I just never could get INTO reading it. Mr. Counts is a good writer, and I love international intrigue - but Tommy Carmellini is too much into himself; not into the plot. It's a shame & waste of some good characters.
Excellent book. I love Stephen Coonts and read all of his books
Good follow up to the Jake Grafton series. Caramellini isn't the typical "James Bond" type.
Very dissapointed in Barnes and Noble trickery
Coonts is always a good read for me. He holds my interest and the action is good, but not too gruesome. The plot is always timely and fits with current events, which I enjoy too.