The Confessor is the third book in the Gabriel Allon series. Benjamin Stern, a former agent of the Office, is murdered. Gabriel Allon is told to investigate and the trail leads to a secret society employing a professional killer to protect the Catholic Church from the truth about its own past. Chiara Zolli debuts.
An Apartment in Munich Edit
Benjamin Stern is murdered in Munich. At the Vatican, Luigi Donati tells Pope Paul VII about the murder. Luigi adds that they should assume that the Pope's enemies are willing to murder him as well. Gabriel Allon is called away from his work as an art restorer by Ari Shamron to go to Munich and make sure there is nothing in Benjamin's apartment to connect him to the Office. Gabriel travels to Munich using Ehud Landau as his identity and meets with detective of the Munich police and with the caretaker of Benjamin's apartment. Gabriel examines the apartment and notes that Benjamin's computer and the contents of his safe have been taken. Ratzinger gives Gabriel an envelope containing Benjamin's glasses which had been mailed from a hotel in Italy. The Munich detective takes Gabriel back to his hotel, then makes a call to the Chief, who tells him to have Gabriel followed and to get a photograph of him.
The newly-elected Pope Paul VII lunches with Cardinal Marco Brindisi, the Vatican secretary of state. He tells the cardinal that he intends to continue the inquiry into the Church's activity—or inactivity—regarding the Jews during World War II. Brindisi is more astounded when the Pope tells him that he will make as public announcement of his plan at the Great Synagogue of Rome. After Brindisi leaves without the usual ceremony, Paul VII tells Donati that they have disturbed a sleeping cobra.
Gabriel meets with Benjamin's department head, who feigns sympathy about Benjamin's death. Afterward, he sees that he is being followed by the Munich deective and arranges to have a car placed where he can drive away, surprising the detective who calls Rome and reports to the chief, who again demands a photograph of Gabriel.
Cardinal Brindisi is also the spiritual leader of Crux Vera, a secret society whose purpose is to defend the reputation and power of the Catholic Church at all costs. Roberto Pucci serves as the financial executive while Carlo Casagrande, a former general within the Carabinieri, sees to security matters. The society enjoys considerable power within the Vatican because of Brindisi's position and because Casagrande is the head of the Vatican security office. Because of their zealous commitment to the church, these three leaders vehemently oppose any policy that could darken the church’s reputation. Gabriel Allon’s independent homicide investigation further complicates this dilemma, because the clues that he seeks will connect the Crux Vera to Stern's death. Casagrande is concerned that nothing in the computer files or paper documents taken by Eric Lange disclosed who inside the church had provided information to Stern. Casagrande believes that he knows the identity of Stern's collaborator. Brindisi approves Casagrande's plans to proceed and Pucci agrees to provide funding.
A Convent by the Lake Edit
Gabriel travels to the village of Brenzone on Lake Garda in northern Italy. There he learns that Stern had visited the local Convent of the Sacred Heart. He contacts its superior, Mother Vincenza. She verifies that Stern had met with her to research places where Jews sought refuge during the Holocaust and she shows Allon a basement where Jews purportedly stayed. Upon Gabriel’s departure, Mother Vincenza secretly informs Crux Vera of Gabriel’s visit. However, an unidentified caller warns Allon that Mother Vincenza is lying and that the truth can only be found through Sister Regina and Martin Luther. Gabriel acquires a copy of Stern's telephone bill from the concierge at the hotel in Brenzone and learns that Stern telephoned Peter Malone, an investigative reported, in London.
Stern’s murderer is a professional hit man from Switzerland named Eric Lange, from whom Casagrande commissions yet another murder; he places the killer's payment in a safety deposit box at Becker & Puhl Bank with the assistance of Konrad Becker.
Returning to Venice, Gabriel visits with Francesco Tiepolo and learns that he was a friend of Pope Paul VII beofre the Pope's election. Gabriel meets with Rabbi Jacob Zolli and encounters Chiara Zolli, his daughter, for the first time. Rabbi Zolli explains that to his knowledge no Jews were harboured in the Brenzone abbey. In fact, evidence seems to suggest the opposite: that the church expedited the removal of Jews and later helped Nazi leaders escape judgement. In Rome, Casagrande meets with Achille Bartoletti of the Italian police and describes Gabriel as a would-be papal assassin.
Gabriel then travels to Vienna to inform his colleague Eli Lavon of his findings. Eli reveals that the Martin Luther in question was the Nazi director of the German Foreign Office, which collaborated with European governments to track down and remove Jews. According to Eli, the Nazis especially wished to maintain positive relations with the Vatican, for a denouncement of the Holocaust by a pope would have certainly made the Nazis’ work more difficult. Gabriel and Eli conclude that there must be some connection between Nazi leader Martin Luther and the Convent of the Sacred Heart. Gabriel seeks assistance from Ephraim Ben-Avraham at the Vienna Station to contact Ari Shamron in Israel.
After coordinating with Ari, Gabriel travels to London. Mordecai has had Peter Malone under surveillance. Malone tells Gabriel about Stern’s connection to Malone, whose recent book about Crux Vera had raised Sterns interest. Stern also hired Malone to track down two missing monsignors who were presumed dead and that a Roman police detective had been forced to close his files about their cases. Malone suggests that Crux Vera orchestrated Stern’s death to keep further details about the society’s identity and secrets from being published. Shortly after Allon leaves Malone, Eric Lange arrives and kills the journalist. As Lange leaves Malone’s flat, an Mordecai takes a picture of the elusive Leopard.
In Rome, Casagrande and Brindisi confer about the Leopard while Lange himself crosses the English Channel. Lange reviews the files on the computer he stole after killing Malone and learns that the Gabriel is the man who killed Abu Jihad. Lange is furious with Casagrande for not telling him he was involving him with Israelis and Lange goes to Paris to engage a man to find and track Gabriel in Rome and to notify Lange so the latter can go to Rome to kill Gabriel
A Pensione in Rome Edit
Gabriel contacts the detective in Rome. Rossi later visits Gabriel at the hotel; a Vatican security operative sees him and reports to Casagrande. Casagrande notifies Achille Bartoletti. Lange learns Gabriel's location and arranges a flight to Rome. Rossi tells Gabriel that he is suspected of being a would-be papal assassin and about the missing persons cases involving the two monsignors. He adds that during World War II both priests served on the German desk of the Vatican secretariat of state. He adds that he also learned that an elderly widow, who had once been a nun, disappeared at about the same time. The hotel is then raided by the carabinieri. A gun battle ensues; the detective is killed and Gabriel is wounded. Gabriel calls the Rome Station for an extraction.
Chiara Zolli rescues Allon and reveals that she also works for the Office and has been monitoring him throughout his investigation. She treats his wound and guards him through the night. Shimon Pazner, the chief of the Rome Station is furious, mostly with Shamron, that Gabriel is operating in his territory without his knowledge. Such is the scale of the manhunt for Allon that Pazner sees no option but to evacuate him to Israel. Pazner assigned Chiara the task of taking Gabriel to the evacuation point at Fiumicino. Gabriel and Chiara board a yacht whose captain intends to take them to Israel but they hijack the yacht and to return to Europe.
Ari Shamron is berated by Lev Ahroni over Gabriel's actions and after analyzing some records with the assistance of Yossi Gavish goes to Vienna. Chiara and Gabriel navigate to Provence to meet with Antonella Huber, the daughter of Sister Regina Carcassi. Antonella delivers an account written by her mother of a clandestine meeting between Nazi agents and members of the Vatican on the premises of the Brenzone abbey. In this meeting, Bishop Sebastiano Lorenzi assured Martin Luther of the cooperation of the Vatican with the Third Reich’s removal of the Jews. Sister Regina, who witnessed the meeting, did not share her knowledge with anyone, but instead, wrote the account. Huber confides to Allon that she also gave a copy of the letter to Stern. The letter proves that the missing priests were present at the meeting, and Huber adds that her mother was later murdered.
Gabriel and Chiara are followed by a car; Gabriel ambushes the driver and learns that Olivero works for Carlo Casagrande. Gabriel leaves he driver dying and he and Chiara drive to Munich where Gabriel faxes Regina Carcassi's Document to Eli Lavon. The two agents again search Stern’s apartment. Stern´s landlady interrupts their search, identifies them as Stern’s Israeli colleagues and admits that she guards the secret they seek. The manager gives Gabriel a sealed envelope she received from Stern and tells him not to return because it is not safe to do so.
A Synagogue by the River Edit
A journalist for La Repubblica, arrives at the Vatican press office and finds a bulletin that Pope Paul VII will be speaking at the Great Synagogue in only two days. The journalist leaves the Vatican and calls Luigi Donati from a public telephone; he reminds Donati that he is owed something for playing the game about the Pope's childhood. Donati says that Foà will be repaid, but refuses to provide specifics about the remarks the Pope will be making. The Israeli ambassador to the Vatican learns about the Popes forthcoming speech and places a call to Ari Shamron. Carlo Casagrande has had Foà's apartment searched and has learned what Foà knows about the Pope's childhood. He meets with Roberto Pucci and Cardinal Marco Brindisi. He reports what he has learned and Brindisi, in his role as the leader of Crux Vera, orders Casagrande to have the Leopard kill Pope Paul VII.
In Vienna, Gabriel Allon has arrived with Chiara to meet with Eli Lavon and Ari Shamron. They open the envelope provided by the manager and find a report about the Lake Garda Meeting to Adolf Eichmann in which Luther writes that the Catholic Church has agreed not to interfere with the German Jewish Policy. The document bears marks that reflect that it comes from the files of the KGB. Ari decides the Pope must be told and Gabriel responds that he knows how to pass the message, but that he must return to Venice to do so.
Carlo Casagrande meets with Eric Lange in Zurich and passes a dossier; Lange accepts the offer with a comment about the middle ages not being over. Gabriel meets with Francesco Tiepolo and revels his true identity. Tiepolo calls Donati, who arranges for the Israelis to meet secretly with the Pope. At the meeting, Pope Paul verifies the authenticity of the documents by revealing that, as a child, he was present in an anteroom during the meeting at the convent. He repeats his intent to speak at the Great Synagogue and the participants agree that Gabriel should accompany him on his journey. Eric Lange arrives in Rome.
As the Pope, Donati and Gabriel await the departure, Gabriel is recognized and pinned to the floor by Karl Brunner until Pope Paul orders Brunner to stop and explains the situation to him. The party proceeds to the synagogue, where the Pope delivers the message that he is establishing a commission to look into the Church's conduct during World War II. Cardinal Brindisi watches on television because he has refused to attend. Meanwhile, Eric Lange has penetrated the Apostalic Palace. He leaves a note and a single 9mm round in an envelope on the Pope's desk, then proceeds to the offices of Marco Brindisi where he kills in turn the cardinal's secretary and Brindisi. Brunner gets word of the penetration and Gabriel and Donati return to the Vatican. Lange kills several law enforcement officers on his way out of the palace and is picked up by Boussard on a motor scooter. Lange takes over the driving and he and Boussard are pursued by Gabriel, also on a motor scooter. As Gabriel closes in on the pair, Lange decides to sacrifice Boussard and causes her to lose her grip. She falls to the ground; Gabriel loses control of his scooter and ends up lying on top of the dead Boussard. Gabriel himself is near death. Carlo Casagrande looks at the carnage in Saint Peters Square, enters a church and commits suicide.
A Church in Venice Edit
Gabriel Allon is cared for in a private hospital room normally reserved for the Pope. He recovers and is able to complete his restoration in Venice. Donati allows a journalist to publish the true story of the Pope's childhood, including his presence at the Lake Garda Meeting. The Pope convenes his commission, giving it five years to complete its work. Lev Ahroni objects but Ari Shamron establishes a team to look for the Leopard. Roberto Pucci's financial empire proves to be hollow and collapses. Gabriel asks to speak with Pope Paul VII. At their meeting the Pope explains that he had sent Donati to Moscow to obtain the report about he Lake Garda Meeting from the Russian SVR and that Benjamin Stern was a victim of the Pope's plot; he asks Gabriel's forgiveness and Gabriel consents. Luigi Donati gives Gabriel the single round Lange left on the pope's desk. After five months Gabriel travels to Switzerland and kills Eric Lange with one shot. Chiara Zolli picks up Gabriel after he completes the task.
- Headlines in the synopsis are from the book.
- The single round Gabriel uses to kill Lange is probably the one Lange left on the Pope's desk.