Former MI6 agent Michael Vaux is again asked to serve queen and country after a stint in Syria and Egypt as a newsman. Following the sudden death of Syria’s President Hafez Assad, Vaux’s close friend Ahmed Kadri, Syria’s chief armaments buyer, is arrested. Syria’s security agency [the GSD] then demands that Vaux return to Damascus from Cairo. Warned by Alena Hussein, GSD’s chief of station in Cairo, that he faces serious questions about his friendship with Kadri and his earlier links with Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, Vaux fears for his safety and opts to quit Cairo. Enter MI6. His former employers offer to forgive all past misdeeds in return for his acceptiong a special assignment: to play the principal role in Operation Saladin, a brilliant plot to help a dissident Syrian nuclear scientist to defect to the UK along with his top-secret dossier on Syria’s nuclear program and its stockpiles of nerve gas and other chemical weapons.
But events don’t go according to plan: Dr. Nessim Said, the Syrian scientist, is shot dead in the English village where he has been sent with Vaux for a few days of relaxation. Hope of locating the nuclear/weapons dossier evaporates with Said’s assassination. Who killed Said? Prime suspects include the Mossad whose ‘targeted killings’ of nuclear scientists working for Arab regimes has become a familiar pattern. But the Syrians, unaware of Said’s plan to defect, blame MI6 and, in particular,Vaux. An Al-Saiqa [Syrian Special Forces] hit team is sent to hunt Vaux down. They locate the safe house where Vaux is holed up with his bodyguards. A fierce firefight ensues and the body count is heavy…