The story is set in the Wild West of post war Iraq. A group of Iraqis are offering for sale a highly valuable painting. It is Vincent Van Gogh’s still life – Vase with Irises on an Orange Background. The painting was originally stolen from Kuwait by Iraqi forces during the First Gulf War. In the chaos that engulfed Baghdad during the recent conflict Saddam’s palaces were looted and the Van Gogh fell into Iraqi hands.
HMG are seeking to return the painting to its original owner, a Kuwaiti Prince, to thank him for his support during the recent Iraq conflict. But rather than paying, the British Government decides to launch a black operation to forcibly retrieve the painting. Or at least this is the story told to ex-SAS soldier Mick Kilbride when he is recruited to lead a team to seize the painting. Mick’s mission is given the code name Desert Claw. He and his men are on a black, deniable operation. If they are captured or killed in Iraq they will be disowned by HMG. Mat and his right hand man, SAS tough man ‘East End’ Eddie, are told to leave no man alive. There are to be no witnesses to their mission. They are provided with the nerve agent gas Sarin to kill the Iraqis without harming the painting. But as Mat and his team are drawn into a web of violent action and intrigue in Iraq, it becomes increasingly clear that there is a hidden agenda to the mission.
Only the involvement of American Iraqi war veteran Bill ‘Bronco’ Berger saves the men from certain death in a bloody ambush. In the climactic scenes Mat and his team are confronted by the British officer who first recruited them – and they realise that they have been horribly betrayed. But the denouement introduces a shocking twist to the tale as they turn the tables on their betrayers. The story is darkly disturbing. It is also unsettlingly close to the reality of post-conflict Iraq, where fortunes are being made and lost overnight .. and good men are dying in the process.