Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service [SIS] faces its biggest crisis since the Cold War. Intelligence operatives working out of MI6’s station in Beirut are being mercilessly eliminated and carefully planned clandestine operations are blown before they get off the ground. Despite lengthy internal investigations into the leaks and betrayals, the spy agency’s top brass have come to an impasse. Sir Percival Bolton, veteran spymaster and head of MI6, decides to turn the problem over to Department B3, a maverick sub-group of MI6’s Mideast East and North Africa desk.
Enter Michael Vaux, former newsman, honey-trapped and recruited by SIS agents in the late 90s, and subsequently chief operative in some of B3’s more spectacular and successful ventures. Now settled comfortably in the English countryside in semi-retirement, he is asked to come in from the cold and head up Operation Cedar, a deep-cover plan to find the mole who is leaking vital information to Britain’s adversaries in the Middle East.
It’s 2010, and Vaux finds a devastated Beirut still in the throes of post-war reconstruction. He first works out of Shatila, a Palestinian refugee camp, where he makes contacts and hires sub-agents who help guide him through the complex religion-dominated politics of Lebanon. He later establishes a safe house within the crumbling structures of a condemned Byzantine mansion where he’s joined by B3 colleague Chris Greene. Their investigations probe the backgrounds of Foreign Service officers who work at the British embassy, field agents and contacts in the pay of MI6 and suspected double agents. But they run into blind alleys and deceptions as byzantine as the safe house’s decaying architecture. Newly-hired sub- agents and cut-outs meet gruesome deaths and promising, anonymous leads become dead ends.
Vaux learns to trust no one: the Sunni and the Shiite divide, the eternal rivalry between clans and sects, the competing geo-political influences of Iran and Saudi Arabia, the Christian militias and the growing post-civil war ascendancy of Hezbollah make up a political and social scene more labyrinthine than the twisting alleyways of Shatila. Vaux finally penetrates the maze with a combination of classic tradecraft, breakthrough twenty-first century technology—and some unexpected help from the CIA’S man in Beirut.