The English Assassin is the second book in the Gabriel Allon series. A private organization is keeping secrets about Switzerland's involvement with the NAZIs in World War II. A violin virtuoso holds the key. Eli Lavon debuts.
In 1975, Anna Rolfe's mother commits suicide after learning something terrible about her husband. Anna is the first to find the body; she calls her father, who is primarily annoyed at being interrupted during a meeting with a man named Otto. Anna's father removes a note from her mother's body. Otto tells him to burn the note.
Julian Isherwood has sold The Adoration of the Shepherds by Francesco Vecellio that Gabriel Allon restored for him. He sends Gabriel to Switzerland to clean a painting. When Gabriel arrives at a residence, he finds a man who has been killed, obviously by a professional. Gabriel recognizes the painting he was sent to clean as Portrait of a Young Man by Rafael. Gabriel leaves the house but he is arrested thirty minutes later.
Christopher Keller, working on contract, kills a man. Keller returns to his home on the island of Corsica. He listens to news on the radio that includes his two killings and the murder of a Swiss named Augustus Rolfe.
Gabriel is interrogated by Gerhardt Peterson, who tells Gabriel his real name and his employer (the Office). Peterson accuses Gabriel of having killed a Palestinian named Ali Abdel Hamidi twenty-five years earlier. In a holding cell, Gabriel thinks back to his recruitment by Ari Shamron; he is eventually released into Shamron's custody. Ari admits to Gabriel that he arranged for Gabriel to be at Augustus Rolfe's house because Rolfe, a member of an established family of Swiss bankers, had contacted the Israeli embassy and said he wanted to talk with someone from the Office. Ari adds that Rolfe's daughter is Anna Rolfe. When Ari drops Gabriel at the airport, he comments on how unlikely it was for Gerhardt Peterson to be able to solve a crime in only thirty minutes.
Gerhardt Peterson briefs the members of the Council of Rütli; Otto Gessler instructs him to have Gabriel killed.
When Keller returns to Corsica, a young boy who watched his property tells him Don Orsati wishes to see him. Keller tells the boy to convey an invitation to lunch to the Don. At lunch Orsati, who employs Keller as an assassin, gives him a new mission.
Anna Rolfe lives in exile in Costa de Prata, Portugal. Her identity is a mystery to the local people until the owner of the inn discovered she a world famous violinist. She falls and pins her arm under a rock and is only saved by her maintenance man, who carries her to safety. As she recovers, she receives news of her father's murder. When she returns from the funeral, her manager Fiona Richardson telephones to tell her that, if she wishes, they can postpone an appearance in Venice and that a man from the Israeli embassy has information about her father's death and wants to see her.
Anna meets with Gabriel and he tells her the story of her father's contact with the Israelis. She promises him an answer in the morning.
Anna agrees to accompany Gabriel to Zurich. As Gabriel drives to Zurich, he compliments her playing and she explains "The Devils Trill." Later on the trip, he and Anna argue about whether he is or is not a spy. They go to Augustus Rolfe's villa and Anna shows him the now empty room that had held her father's private art collection. Anna accesses the images from the security system, which inexplicably failed the night her father was murdered, and Gabriel sees an amazing collection of French impressionist paintings. Anna tels Gabriel that the only other living person who knows about the paintings is an art dealer who advised the elder Rolfe.
Gabriel and Anna drive to Italy. Anna boards a plane in Milan to return to Portugal. Goes on to Rome where he meets with Ari Shamron to brief him on what has happened to arrange a surveillance. Two men are conducting an audio surveillance of Gabriel and Ari.
Gabriel drives to Paris to mount the surveillance of Werner Müller. He meets with Uzi Navot who is annoyed because he thinks his own Paris Station can conduct the surveillance with Gabriel's help. Uzi supplies the needed personnel and equipment. Gabriel, with the assistance of Mordecai and Oded, watches Müller, including audio surveillance with a combination bug/tap. Nothing happens for several days and Gabriel calls Müller to annoy him by asking about a painting he knows Müller does not have.
Keller meets with Pascal Debré who is supposed to provide an explosive device. Debré demands double the price and Keller kills him and his partner. He then takes the explosive device and detonates a second one as he leaves the scene of the transaction.
Gabriel phones then visits Werner Müller's art gallery. He sees someone who looks suspiciously familiar and flees the gallery. There is an explosion. Müller is killed and Gabriel's hands are badly cut by flying glass.
Gabriel calls an annoyed Uzi Navot, who brings a doctor to treat Gabriel's wounds. Gabriel tells Uzi about the evidence that the French police might find and gives him a picture of the man outside the gallery to send to King Saul Boulevard. Gabriel tells Uzi to send a security team to look after Anna Rolfe and refuses to go back to Jerusalem. In Portugal, an Office security team arrives at Anna's villa. On the ferry back to Corsica, Keller is upset that so many innocents were killed by his explosion and realizes that there was something familiar about Gabriel.
Gabriel goes to London and talks to Julian Isherwood Julian tells him the tale of the Third Reich's looting of the art works of Europe, how complicit the Swiss were in the looting and how uncooperative the Swiss were after the War.
Emil Jacobi had fled his native Switzerland after writing a book critical of Switzerland's involvement with the Third Reich. Gabriel meets with him and they exchange information about Augustus Rolfe. Jacobi tells Gabriel that Rolfe had traveled to Germany several times during the war and had given information about money Jews had deposited in his bank to the NAZIs. Jacobi warns Gabriel to be careful when dealing with the "Gnomes of Zurich." Their conversation is recorded and Gabriel is photographed. Both products go to Gerhardt Peterson who consults with Otto Gessler. Peterson hires Anton Orsati to kill Emil Jacobi.
Gabriel returns to Costa de Prata to see Anna. He asks questions about her father's activities during the War. Anna is defensive about her father's ownership of the missing paintings but tells Gabriel where the provenance for the paintings may be found. Gabriel tries to get her to postpone her appearance in Venice for security reasons, but she refuses.
Gabriel visits Lisbon Station to make contact with Ari Shamron. Shamron sends a report based on the photograph Gabriel took of the man outside Werner Müller's gallery. The report is about the British military background of Christopher Keller; it includes a photograph of Gabriel standing next to Keller in Jerusalem.
Gabriel goes to Zurich to find the provenances, but they are missing from the desk drawer in Rolfe's villa. He notices two different brands of cigarette butts in the ashtray. In a hidden compartment, he finds a list of currency transactions and a list of German names and apparent account numbers. He also finds of photograph of a young Augustus Rolfe with Adolf Hitler. Then he sees a man pointing a gun at him. Gabriel kills the man in the villa and another in the yard. As he tries to escape on foot, Anna Rolfe arrives in a car and rescues him. Gabriel tells Anna that the provenance was gone but does not tell her about the photograph of her father with Hitler. Anna tells him that her father only smoked one brand of cigarette. She insists on staying with him when he wants her to go back to Portugal.
In Lyons, France Emil Jacobi is listening to a tape of his conversation with Gabriel Allon when a man slips into his house and cuts his throat. The man takes the tape and player.
Anna and Gabriel drive to Vienna, Austria. Gabriel consults with Eli Lavon, a fellow member of Wrath of God, at Wartime Claims and Inquiries. Eli explains the transactions on the document Gabriel found. Gabriel returns to the hotel room where he left Anna and sees an item in a newspaper about the murder of Jacobi.
Eli calls Gabriel and tells him what he has learned about Augustus Rolfe's painting acquisitions. Gabriel realizes that he has to tell Anna Rolfe about the documents he found. When they discuss the list of names and numbers, Gabriel realizes that they have to go back to Zurich. He calls Vienna Station. Hannah Landau remakes Anna to look like someone else and produces a false Austrian passport to match the new look.
In Zurich, Gabriel and Anna find the account belonging to Augustus Rolfe at Becker & Puhl Bank. After Anna authenticates the account, Konrad Becker brings them two large boxes containing rolled up priceless painting, cash from a variety of countries, documents and a stack of letters including Augustus Rolfe's Letter. They take everything with them. Gabriel explains to Anna that they will have trouble getting out of the country because of the men who killed her father, Müller and Jacobi. He also offers that all the paintings that are still missing are in Switzerland.
While waiting for transportation Gabriel and Anna talk; Gabriel tells her a little about Leah. The two hide in the back of a commercial truck provided by the Office to cross the border into Germany. In Germany, they get into a car left for them and drive north into the Netherlands where they spend the night while waiting for the ferry to England.
Otto Gessler orders the deaths of Anna Rolfe and Gabriel. Gerhardt Peterson offers some practical objections, but Gessler tells him not to worry.
A truck arrives at Isherwood Fine Arts. The driver conducts a sweep for listening devices and finds and disables two. He then reveals that Ari Shamron is riding in the back of his truck. Gabriel and Anna arrive a while later and Gabriel displays the painting found in Augustus Rolfe's safety deposit box. Gabriel suggests an attempt to recover the rest of the paintings from Rolfe's collection and Shamron responds that the prime minister would never approve; Anna says Ari should simply not tell him. One of the paintings from the box once belonged to Julian's father and Anna returns it to him with an apology. Shamron becomes more interested in recovering the still missing art. He says Anna should cancel her performance in Venice. Gabriel says she has refused to cancel and that he will be going to Venice with her. He wants Eli Lavon, Mordecai and Oded to handle the operation in Zurich.
On Corsica, Christopher Keller is unhappy about his recent activities. He meets with Orsati who gives him his next assignment, killing Anna Rolfe and Gabriel Allon. Keller recognizes Gabriel from the photo. The next morning, he stops to see the Signadora who tells him about her husband's death and her having hired an assassin for vengeance. She prays and drives away his demons. Keller crosses to the Italian mainland and drives to Venice.
Gabriel and Anna arrive in Venice for Anna's performance. Keller arrives as well and a ticket to Anna's performance and two weapons for the killings.
Gabriel and Team Giorgione conduct an practice run through Venice and see nothing of Christopher Keller. Later, Anna demands to know what Gabriel knows about Keller. She decides to play "The Devils Trill" at her performance and tells Gabriel to send Keller to hell.
|The Devil's Trill|
Anna appears and announces that she will play "The Devils Trill." She insists that Gabriel give her some time alone then goes into the auditorium and performs. Afterward, Anna returns to her dressing room and Gabriel. She finds a note and a charm shaped like a hand in her violin case. The note reads that she needs the charm more than the writer and that Gabriel owes the writer. The man who was supposed to be guarding the room is missing. Gabriel gives the note and the charm to Cordoni who explains the significance of the charm. On the boat he is using to escape, Keller disposes of the blazer he had taken from the dead security officer at the auditorium.
In Zurich, Gerhardt Peterson is in his office waiting for some message that Anna Rolfe and Gabriel Allon are dead. No message arrives and Peterson's instincts tell him that something has gone wrong. He drives home. In the garage, he encounters a woman who appears to be amenable to having sex but instead sprays a gas into his face. As Peterson falls, his is caught by Eli Lavon and placed into a van.
In Italy, Peterson is kept cold and nearly naked to disoriented him then taken for interrogation. After Gabriel shows him photos of him with an unidentified woman and tells him that the Office knows where to find his children, Peterson says that Augustus Rolfe was dying, wanted to return his paintings and wanted to explain how they came into his possession. He admits to ordering the theft of the paintings from Augustus Rolfe's villa, adding that Rolfe was supposed to be out of town and that Müller killed Rolfe because Rolfe could identify him. Christopher Keller was then hired to kill Müller, Emil Jacobi, Anna Rolfe and Gabriel. He mentions Otto Gessler.
Gabriel decides to confront Gessler. He takes Peterson to Gessler's residence in inner Switzerland. After they enter the property, Gabriel is knocked unconscious. Gabriel regains consciousness and is beaten by Peterson and Gessler's guards. When he regains consciousness a second time, he is taken to see Gessler. He realizes that Otto Gessler is blind.
Gessler allows Gabriel to see numerous galleries of European art looted by the Nazis and conveyed to the Swiss in exchange for the nation's support during World War II. Gessler tells Gabriel that he had his property designated as a bank and that Switzerland's banking secrecy laws would prevent anyone from ever entering and taking the paintings.
To Gabriel's surprise, he is freed by Gerhardt Peterson, who expresses guilt over Switzerland's past. Peterson says his thinks Gabriel has one chance in three of making it to the edge of Gessler's property where his friends are waiting.
Gabriel does make it down the mountain to Eli Lavon and Oded, killing one of Gessler's guards on the way. He is attacked by the guard's dog and suffers a broken arm. He also kills the dog.
Three months later in Port Navas, Gabriel Allon has accepted work from Julian Isherwood to restore an altarpiece. While he is preparing to work, he reads that the body of Gerhardt Peterson was found in a crevice of a Swiss glacier. Anna Rolfe completes her tour and returns home to Costa de Prata, managing to remain above the furor over her father's death. Ari Shamron visits and, noting the Anna and Rami are about to kill each other, makes a proposal.
On Corsica, Christopher Keller meets with Anton Orsati. He confesses that he intentionally did not kill Anna and Gabriel. He plays the tape he took from Emil Jacobi's home for Orsati and gives him a dossier to read. They argue briefly over right and wrong then Keller says Otto Gessler deserves to die. Orsati tells Keller that it was he who killed for the Signadora and offers his help.
Gabriel returns to Costa de Prata and relieves Rami of his duties as a bodyguard for Anna Rolfe. Gabriel tells Anna that the size of her protective details is her choice and she responds that one is enough.
While Otto Gessler is swimming, Keller kills him.
- Headlines in the synopsis are from the book.
- Although Gabriel also asked that Mordecai also be sent to Zurich, there is no mention of him being there.