Retired service officer Richard Michaelson becomes embroiled in his third case as he investigates the theft of a Gutenberg Bible from the Library of Congress, a lawyer’s mysterious death, and a the discovery of a conspiracy that threatens peace in Europe.

A reception at the Library of Congress ends with a bang when a group calling itself Kulturkampf detonates a bomb, steals a Gutenberg Bible and delivers it to the German embassy. Soon after, retired State department officer Richard Michaelson, who was injured in the blast, is approached by high-powered lawyer Kyle Stroud to find out exactly what Karla Schuler’s job is at the embassy. Giving the puzzle an additional twist is a Treasury official’s interest in what Stroud is up to. Michaelson’s sense that these events are intertwined is enough to lure him back into the shadowy corridors of power that Bowen ( Act of Faith ) sketches so well. This time Michaelson’s contacts give him a runaround–and maybe worse: soon after Richardson talks with a senior U.S. official, a lawyer in Stroud’s firm is murdered. Meanwhile Kulturkampf, which is still on the loose, has set off a bomb in London. With some help from Wendy Gardner, a friend and state legislator, Michaelson gradually pieces together the fragments of a devious scheme while giving the reader a sophisticated and attention-commanding tour though a political landscape in which intrigue seems less the exception than the rule.

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