In the north east sector of the Yemen Arab Republic, American archaeologist Arnold Colwell is hard at work digging up the Queen of Sheba’s summer palace, when his students unearth a copper cylinder filled with forty sheets of parchment. During the course of translating the minute Jewish script, Colwell is at first puzzled by the writer’s reference to certain events that took place in seventh century Baghdad. But when the horrifying premise of the final ten pages sinks in, he contacts the U.S. Ambassador in Sana’a to request that he come to the site at once. Four days later, before the ambassador arrives, a team of Bedouin sweeps in from the north. Their leader, Sahallah, demands the scrolls. Knowing the danger they pose, Colwell refuses. Minutes later, fifty Yemenis and two of Colwell’s students are dead and mutilated.

Dr Sam Bloom and his ill-fated botany team arrive at the Marib site while the carnage is still in progress. One of his men is shot down while Bloom and his two remaining colleagues are taken prisoner with the others. Bloom, a former Navy pilot, has carried around some heavy mental baggage since Vietnam, and the sudden shock of witnessing so much bloodshed poses a very real danger. Over the next few days, in a dark dungeon in an unknown land, he becomes increasingly unstable, and only with the intimate help of brave and beautiful student Julie Newman is he able to keep it all together.

Across the ocean in Nairobi, Bloom’s friend Charlie Bannerman learns of Sam’s fate and leaves at once for Yemen, but arriving there, the former NYPD detective finds there is little he can do on his own. When field agent Nick Manzoni arrives to take command of the search, Bannerman decides to join forces with the CIA. At the Marib site they are met by Saudi and Yemeni officials who assume al-Qaeda is behind the slaughter, although they have no proof of this. A note pinned to the dead botanist warns that all Americans must leave the country within five days, or know the wrath of Allah.

One of few respected conservatives left in Iran, Ayatollah Hasam Shariyaat is under constant observation by the hierarchy. He has just been summoned to Mecca, where an urgent and dangerous mission awaits him. Forbidden to leave, he is forced to strike down the party’s number two man in order to escape the country.

Prince Khalid is the Head of Saudi State Security. He begs his uncle not to allow this Shariyaat to attend the annual Muslim conference in Mecca, but the King feels with Khomeini well out of the way, Iran is making a genuine attempt to rejoin the world. Khalid’s advice is ignored.

Now the stage is set, the players are in place, and the curtain rises…more bodies appear, Bloom’s life is constantly on the line, Manzoni and Bannerman grow desperate, the House of al-Saud comes under attack. The pace continues to escalate until it becomes clear that the entire world Islamic community is about to be ripped apart and then put back together again by the evil and mysterious Sahallah. One man can stop this madness, but Sam Bloom has his own devils to conquer before he can go after the real one.

Read the first 30 pages of The Exordium