The Kill Artist is the first book in the Gabriel Allon series. Gabriel Allon is recalled to the service of Israel after the Israeli ambassador to France is killed by an old enemy.
In Vienna in January 1991, Gabriel Allon, using the alias Mario Delvecchio, finishes his work as an art restorer for the day and dines with his wife Leah and son Dani. As the Leah and Dani are preparing to return to Israel, their car explodes, killing Dani and severely injuring Leah.
In Paris, Tariq al-Hourani kills the Israeli ambassador, his wife and two bodyguards. He then shoots and kills an American student he had being seeing as cover. Ari Shamron has been reinstated as director of the Office after a series of disasters. Shamron is saddled with Lev Ahroni as his operations chief. Shamron watches international news feeds of the assassination. He calls Uzi Navot in Paris and issues instructions then travels to Jerusalem to brief the Prime Minister. He identifies the perpetrator as al-Hourani and asks permission to assign Gabriel to kill al-Hourani. The prime minister agrees.
Al-Hourani learns that the Office suspects him of killing the ambassador, that his next layover will be in Amsterdam and that he has been targeted for assassination by "an old friend."
Ari tells Julian Isherwood that he needs to speak with Gabriel. Julian initially refuses to disclose Gabriel's location, claiming that without the painting Gabriel is restoring Isherwood Fine Arts will go bankrupt, then relents. Ari goes to Port Navas and tells Gabriel that Tariq al-Hourani, who killed Dani and maimed Leah, killed the ambassador in Paris; he convinces Gabriel to return to active service with Israel. Ari later meets with Gabriel and tells him the operation is approved. Julian rejects an offer from Oliver Dimbleby to buy Isherwood Fine Arts. Julian drives to Port Navas, where he learns from Peel that Gabriel left after talking with a man. Ari returns to Israel and briefs the Prime Minister.
Jacqueline Delacroix, a fashion model who had an affair with Gabriel, has a bad experience at a photo shoot and decides to go on a vacation.
In Amsterdam, Leila Khalifa befriends a drug addict who lives on a houseboat owned by her brother. After staying with Inge for a while, Leila manufactures a reason to leave the city after convincing Inge to allow al-Hourani to stay on the houseboat. Al-Hourani arrives in Amsterdam and watches the home of two people he intends to kill. He then goes back to the houseboat, where he has sex with Inge. Afterward, he suffers an attack from his brain tumor.
Gabriel hires a former member of the Central Intelligence Agency to set up listening devices to monitor Tawfiki.
Adrian Carter meets with Ari Shamron in Tel Aviv. They tell lies to each other about how much they know about the assassination of Zev Eliyahu. Carter warns Ari that the Office should not strike back at the assassin because of the peace process. Ari reports the conversation to the Prime Minister, who tells him to make sure the operation goes off without the CIA learning about it.
Gabriel finds Jacqueline and convinces her to act as the lover of Yusef al-Tawfiki. Gabriel tells Jacqueline about al-Tawfiki's background, including his having grown up in a particularly bad refugee camp in Lebanon. Gabriel then tests Jacqueline's ability to shoot.
In Amsterdam, al-Hourani kills the drug addict and her brother. He then kills his two targets and their maid.
In Paris, Shamron briefs Gabriel on the events in Amsterdam. Gabriel reports that he has located Jacqueline Delacroix and that she has agreed to work for the Office. They agree that Jacqueline needs a cover story and Gabriel returns to London to meets with Julian. Julian agrees to hire Jacqueline as his secretary.
Gabriel moves Jacqueline into an apartment suitable for a secretary. They discuss the forthcoming operation. Gabriel plans on Jacqueline meeting al-Tawfiki the following evening. Jacqueline Delacroix goes to work for Julian. In the meantime, Gabriel learns that al-Tawfiki intends to go to a nightclub.
Gabriel sends Jacqueline to the same club al-Tawfiki plans to visit, hoping that al-Tawfiki will be attracted to her. He is. Al-Tawfiki invites Jacqueline to his apartment. She accepts and they sleep together. The next morning, while al-Tawfiki is showering, Jacqueline makes impressions of the keys to his building and apartment. She fears al-Tawfiki knows what she has done, but accepts his invitation to dinner that evening.
Jacqueline meets with Gabriel and describes the telephone in al-Tawfiki's apartment. She tells Gabriel about her suspicions and that she has agreed to go out to dinner with al-Tawfiki the coming evening. Al-Tawfiki is suspicious; he passes a message to Kemel Azouri who travels to London to meet him. Al-Tawfiki tells Azouri about catching Jacqueline going through his property. Azouri tells al-Tawfiki to continue seeing Jacqueline.
Nothing happens for ten days. Gabriel meets again with Ari Shamron and asks the Jacqueline be pulled out. Shamron refuses and tells Gabriel to take some time. Gabriel visits his wife Leah, whom most people believe to have been killed in Vienna, at the Stratford Clinic; she does not recognize him. Gabriel also speaks with Leonard Avery, Leah's doctor, who recommends trying a new drug; Gabriel approves.
Azouri and al-Hourani meet again in Lisbon. Al-Hourani explains that he has identified Jacqueline Delacroix and will use her on his next operation.
Jacqueline goes to spend the night with al-Tawfiki. After they have sex, he tells her about the violence of his childhood. During the night al-Tawfiki's phone rings with a message about a meeting. Al-Tawfiki tells Jacqueline that the call was a wrong number. The next morning, Jacqueline and Gabriel argue about the morality of Shamron's operation. Jacqueline agrees to continue.
Randall Karp attempts an audio and visual surveillance of al-Tawfiki and another man in Hyde Park in London but the results are filled with gaps. That evening, al-Tawfiki makes a suggestion to Jacqueline Delacroix. The following morning at Isherwood Fine Arts, Jacqueline receives a note from Gabriel with the mail that Gabriel has gone to Paris and not to leave Isherwood Fine Arts until he contacts her.
Gabriel travels to Paris. Enroute he listens to the surveillance tapes, trying to fill in the gaps. After arriving in Paris, he meets with Ari Shamron. Uzi Navot, whom Gabriel has never met before, is also present; Gabriel instantly dislikes Uzi. The tapes reveal that al-Tawfiki wants Jacqueline to travel to an undisclosed location with a man she has never met whom al-Tawfiki describes as a peace-loving Palestinian diplomat who needs attend a meeting so he can express his reservations about the impact of the peace process on the Palestinians. Gabriel says that the Office should kill al-Tawfiki and forget about al-Hourani. Shamron responds that he does not want the former; he wants the latter.
Gabriel and Shamron travel together to London to meet Jacqueline at Isherwood's business. Shamron tells her how important the operation is and assures her that the Office will be watching her constantly. Shamron gives her a cigarette lighter that includes a beacon. Jacqueline agrees to participate. Shamron leaves and Gabriel speaks with Jacqueline and gives her final instructions on how to act like "Dominique Bonard" the secretary as distinguished from Jacqueline Delacroix the fashion model. When Gabriel meets again with Shamron, he raises the specter of past failures. Ari goes back to the publisher and asks Stone to participate in the operation with his private jet.
Jacqueline takes a walk then goes to al-Tawfiki's apartment. She arrives five minutes early and he berates her for having done so. She lets her temper flare and demands more information about what she is to do. While Gabriel and Shamron listen through the bug in the apartment, Al-Twafiki questions her about her cigarette lighter, but returns it to her. He tells her she will fly with him to Paris in the morning where she will join the man she is to accompany to the unknown destination and that she may only refer to the man as "Lucien Daveau." Al-Twafiki takes Jacqueline to an apartment nears Heathrow airport. Shamron tries to get Gabriel to get some sleep, but Gabriel leaves to take care of something he describes as personal.
Al-Tawfiki and Jacqueline arrive at a basic apartment. Jacqueline suggests they spend the night at a decent hotel but al-Tawfiki says that the apartment provides security. He leaves Jacqueline alone while he makes some phone calls and she goes to sleep. Gabriel arrives at Julian Isherwood's home early the following morning and tells Julian not to sell his business to Oliver Dimbleby. Gabriel then gives Julian ₤100,000 from the funds. Gabriel tells Julian that Jacqueline will not be back; Julian responds that Jacqueline is the real thing and if Gabriel does not keep her it will be a mistake.
Upon arriving at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, Yusef al-Tawfiki tells Jacqueline Delacroix to sit in a coffee shop and wait for Lucien Daveau. Leila Khalifa arrives and tells Jacqueline that there has been a change in plans and that she will accompany Jacqueline to meet Lucien. Leila led Jacqueline to a flight to Montreal, Canada. Watching, Gabriel Allon realized that Tariq al-Hourani had eluded them. Shamron and Gabriel, on board the publisher's private jet with Stone, take off, following the commercial flight to Montreal. Stone tells Ari that he wants access to Gabriel to tell his story in Stone's newspaper. Ari realizes that he must free himself of Stone.
Yusef al-Tawfiki takes a taxi from the airport to an apartment in Paris where he is greeted by Uzi Navot. Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, Mordecai tells Lev Ahroni that the entire staff of the Ottawa Station is absent. Ahroni realizes that no one knows Ari Shamron's whereabouts. Ahroni tells Mordecai to find Shamron.
In Montreal, Leila rents a car and drives with Jacqueline to a major hotel in the city. At the hotel, Jacqueline meets "Lucien Daveau." Tariq al-Hourani maintains his false identity and challenges Jacqueline's motivation for accompanying him. She replies that she is with him out of love for Yusef al-Tawfiki. Al-Hourani takes her shopping for clothes appropriate to the winter weather of Montreal.
The head of the Ottawa Station meets Shamron and Gabriel in Montreal. He reports that he and his staff followed Jacqueline and another woman from the airport to the hotel, where the woman turned Jacqueline over to a man who might be Tariq al-Hourani. Zvi also tells Shamron that King Saul Boulevard is aware that something is happening in Canada. Al-Hourani stayed by Jacqueline's side while she bought winter clothing. At the hotel, Jean, the concierge and a sayan, gives Gabriel a magnetic card key which Gabriel uses to enter al-Hourani's room to plant a bug. Gabriel then goes to the Office command post in a nearby hotel. The escape routes are planned. Another member of the Ottawa Station staff provides video of al-Hourani. Shamron says it is time to end the operation and go home.
Al-Hourani and Jacqueline go to dinner. Gabriel and Deborah dine at a restaurant across the passageway from the one selected by al-Hourani. When al-Hourani and Jacqueline leave, Gabriel follows to the street level. He sees al-Hourani, who forces Jacqueline into a car and turns to smile at Gabriel. Gabriel decides he has no clear shot and al-Hourani drives away. Gabriel finds Jacqueline's purse, including the lighter with the beacon, lying in the street. Shamron berates Gabriel for not shooting.
Al-Hourani drives south from Montreal. Jacqueline argues with him about being a prisoner and he tells her the sole purpose of her accompanying him to to ease his border crossing into the United States. He gives her a Canadian passport with a false name and Leila Khalifa's photo. They drive to the entry point where they cross into the United States. Al-Hourani puts a weapon against Jacqueline's head.
In Washington, D.C., Yasir Arafat is invited to a late-night meeting with United States President James Beckwith. Beckwith explains his concern that Tariq al-Hourani's killings might interfere with the peace process and Arafat tells Beckwith that al-Hourani does not act for him. Arafat adds that al-Hourani is dying from a brain tumor. As the two part, Beckwith cautions Arafat to watch his back.
Enroute, al-Hourani tells Jacqueline that he had known that her name is not Dominique Bonard and that she was working for the Office from the time she first met Yusef al-Tawfiki. She denies his allegations but, after he hits her twice with the barrel of his weapon, she admits the truth. When he asks her real tells him her birth name, Sarah Halévy. As they proceed, al-Hourani explains how his organization learned the truth about Jacqueline. They drive into New York, New York to an apartment. Leila Khalifa responds to Tariq's knock and pulls Jacqueline inside.
At the United Nations Ari Shamron briefs the Prime Minister about the events in Montreal. The Prime Minister is furious and tells Ari that the press, somehow, will find out about the Office using Jacqueline. Unrepentant, Shamron expresses concern about the poor security for the Prime Minister for the day and demands that Gabriel Allon be assigned to the Prime Minister's security detail; the Prime Minister agrees. At the apartment, al-Hourani, whose brain tumor is now causing continuous discomfort, disguises himself so well as a waiter that Leila does not recognize him. Tariq pauses to tell Jacqueline, who is shackled to a bed, that if she behaves she will be allowed to live. After al-Hourani leaves the apartment, Jacqueline asks permission to use the bathroom; Leila agrees. Jacqueline finds a nail file in the bathroom. She uses it to stab Leila twice then picks up the gun Leila drops and shoots her dead.
Tariq pretends to be a new hire and begins work for the reception for Yasir Arafat. Back at the apartment, Jacqueline calls her phone number in London and is connected to the Office then Ari Shamron. While they are talking, a guard bursts into the apartment. Jacqueline kills him and Ari gives her instructions about how to be securely picked up. She follows Shamron's instructions and Gabriel, who has been alerted by Shamron, picks her up. He tells her that it is all over.
Tariq al-Hourani works at the reception and manages to get into a room alone with Arafat by delivering a plate of dates. Gabriel and Jacqueline arrive at the building where Douglas Cannon is hosting the reception for Arafat. As Tariq prepares to kill Yasir Arafat, Arafat recognizes him and recites the history of his accomplishments to him. Tariq decides not to kill Arafat and leaves the room. Gabriel enters the room and Arafat comments that he is still alive, no thanks to Gabriel. Jacqueline and Gabriel pursue al-Hourani, who shoots Gabriel in the chest and flees. Jacqueline follows Tariq and fatally wounds him. Ari arrives and tells Jacqueline to let Tariq die. Ari wants to see Gabriel.
In Jerusalem, Gabriel awakes in the safe house where he is recovering from his wounds. He walks around the city and is later summoned to Tiberias by Shamron for dinner. Shamron tells Gabriel that Lev Ahroni had submitted his resignation from the Office. Gabriel and Ari review the events in New York, including the fact that both Gabriel's and Jacqueline's names were published. Shamron is convinced that both Adrian Carter and Lev Ahroni were sources of the information. Shamron says that Jacqueline wants to see Gabriel. Gabriel asks how soon he will be allowed to leave Israel. Shamron cautions against his ever leaving. Gabriel insists that Shamron withdraw Gabriel's protective watchers and Ari agrees. Gabriel drives around Israel and stops to see Jacqueline who says she has all she wants. Unbelievably, he sees Yusef al-Tawfiki. He demands an explanation from al-Tawfiki who explains that he had been inserted into the Palestine Liberation Organization as a teenager by Shamron after being surgically scarred to resemble a Palestinian boy who was killed. Al-Tawfiki refuses to say more, telling Gabriel to talk to Shamron. Shamron verifies al-Tawfiki's story and admits that he manipulated both Gabriel and Jacqueline to accomplish his goal of re-establishing the reputation of the Office. Finally, Ari admits that he sent al-Tawfiki into an area where Gabriel would see him. When Gabriel returns to the safe house, he finds an airline ticket to London, three passports of different nationalities and an envelope filled with cash. He packs for his flight.
- Headlines in the synopsis are from the book.
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