Gayle Lynds THE LAST SPYMASTER
 
 
 
BOOK OF SPIES
 
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CHAPTER ONE
CHAPTER TWO
CHAPTER THREE
YOUR TOUR IN PHOTOS
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REVIEWS
"A master of the espionage thriller ... a thrilling, spy-laden, history-rich page-turner."
— THE LIBRARY JOURNAL
 
“A modern classic ... Rich with history, breathtaking in plot and pacing, ripe with living, breathing characters we truly care about – or utterly fear – The Book of Spies will consume you from page one.”
— Jeffery Deaver
 
 

Part One

The Hunt

“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

Chapter One

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.

CHAPTER ONE CHAPTER TWO CHAPTER THREE
 
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