The Painted Messiah combines a blistering action thriller set in the streets of Zurich and on the lakes and wooded slopes of Switzerland with a compulsive and convincing account of first century Romano-Judean politics and the real reason for Pontius Pilate's condemnation and execution of Christ.
A legend persists that, after the "scourging", Pilate commanded that his victim be painted from life. Somewhere, the painting survives, the only true image of Christ, granting the gift of everlasting life to whoever possesses it.
Kate Kenyon, the wealthy young widow of an English aristocrat killed on a Swiss mountain, has an addiction to mortal risk. She feeds it by engaging in the armed robbery of priceless artifacts with her accomplice and lover, Ethan Brand, a Tennessean who owns a bookshop in Zurich. Their latest target is a priceless "Byzantine" icon hidden in the tower of a chateau by Lake Lucerne. So far, they have never had to shoot anyone. This time will be different.
Thomas Malloy is a retired CIA man looking for his first lucrative freelance assignment. His chance comes with a presidential favor to a rich but ailing televangelist. Malloy's task seems simple enough: pick up the preacher's newly acquired painting from a Zurich bank and get it to the airport. But once in Switzerland, Malloy's old friend, the enigmatic Contessa Claudia de Medici tries to warn him off his mission.
Sir Julian Corbeau is an international criminal holed up in Switzerland to avoid US extradition proceedings. He is also the sadistic head of the modern Knights Templar. He had the painting, and now he desperately wants it back as well as to wreak a bloody revenge upon those who stole it.
As the contenders vie for possession, the bullets fly, the body count rises, and the secrets of the portrait gradually unfold. We learn how and why it came to be painted and how an object depicting the Light of the World could exert such a baleful and malignant influence on those who possess it.