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Gary McAvoy
The Magdalene Reliquary
Gary McAvoy, author

Adult; Mystery/Thriller; (Market)

During his routine work in the Vatican Secret Archives, Father Michael Dominic discovers a mystifying 13th-century puzzle constructed for the legendary Cathars by famed Italian cartographer Pietro Vesconte. When solved by investigative journalist Hana Sinclair, the puzzle reveals a cryptic map—one that leads to an obscure cave in the fabled Languedoc region of France—where Dominic and his friends unearth a sacred reliquary of astonishing importance and considerable threat to the Church. Fending off attacks by feared Ustasha agents and a powerful Russian oligarch bent on acquiring the object for his vast private collection, Dominic joins forces with Roma gypsies and the Italian Art Squad to ensure the artifact doesn’t reach the lucrative black market in antiquities.
McAvoy’s second danger-filled adventure in his Magdalene Chronicles series carries readers up and down Europe as a Vatican archivist and company pursue an ancient reliquary hidden, according to ancient documents, deep within a French cave. While searching archives for Templar records, Father Michael Dominic stumbles across a medieval puzzle that, when solved, could possibly reveal the location of a reliquary containing the bones of Jesus Christ. Dominic enlists the help of Karl Dengler and Lukas Bischoff, cavers and members of the Vatican Swiss Guard, to hunt and retrieve the reliquary -- but finding the holy remains is only the first step, and hazards lurk around every corner.

McAvoy’s plot moves at a steady clip, with enough thrills and turns to keep the reader’s attention, despite occasionally awkward dialogue (“Unfortunately, though, there is another odor I’ve discovered here which you may not find as pleasing.”) The puzzle of the reliquary gets quickly resolved, but when a man bent on revenge against Father Dominic steals the artifact and traps the cavers, thinking he’s sealed their fate, McAvoy launches readers into a wild ride of action, intrigue, and biblical secrets. The sprawling mystery will entangle Russian oligarchs, Italian secret agents, and even a Romani commune working to recover the reliquary. A background scheme to unseat the Vatican’s Secretariat of State adds a shadowy element of conspiracy without distracting from the momentum of the chase.

McAvoy’s narrative structure is sound, and, true to his genre, he populates his thriller with characters engaging or villainous enough to serve the purposes of the plot, even if they lack complexity. Still, a habit of over explaining technical processes and indulging in irrelevant detail at times stalls the story. Readers looking for an exciting biblical relic hunt colored by historical intrigue will be satisfied with this appealing chase.

Takeaway: This thriller’s hunt for a biblical relic will appeal to readers who crave a sense of history with their intrigue and danger

Great for fans of: Dan Brown, Raymond Khoury

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B
Marketing copy: B+

Matt McAvoy Book Reviews

“A direct sequel to The Magdalene Deception, and it’s a good one, from my namesake (no relation, I promise). One thing I will say from the off is that before you read The Magdalene Reliquary it would definitely help to have read its predecessor first, because there is great backstory for most of the endearing cast of characters in this book, and there are multiple strands of narrative which stem from the first. While the quest of this book is a new one (these books tend to revolve around archaeological missions for holy relics – think Dan Brown, or perhaps a more down-to-earth take on Raiders of the Lost Ark). For those of you who don’t know, a reliquary is a chest containing the remains of a historical figure – in this case, the secret child of Christ and Mary Magdalene, so I suggest perhaps not for the more devout Christians amongst you.

The characters are good, and interesting too, including an intrepid priest, a ruthless cardinal, Russian mobsters and a pair of Swiss special forces soldiers with hearts of gold – McAvoy certainly knows how to craft a good book. This story is perhaps less intricate than the puzzle format aspect of the first, but it still contains the trademark genius artefacts; I would say the revenge aspect of the storyline will have a more mainstream appeal, but in fact this is an altogether more subtle affair. It is a little bit slow to build, with a lot of detail and some wordy filler, but I certainly think readers will enjoy it; it’s more of a relaxed frame of mind, cosy winter evening book, which moves gradually toward a pretty action-packed climax. I thought of it perhaps as if Indiana Jones were to feature in an episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot – this is perhaps enhanced by the continuing storyline involving stolen Nazi gold.

McAvoy is a tremendously eloquent author of the utmost professionalism. His attention to detail is definitely a strong point, and he clearly carries out a huge amount of research into the technicalities and historical accuracies in his work – this is a piece of work which takes itself very seriously. I would describe him as a jobbing author, and a highly proficient one at that, with a wonderful work ethic. I look forward to the next instalment in what I hope is an ongoing series. I would definitely recommend this book, and The Magdalene Deception before it, to fans of slow-burning, intelligent and interesting stories with a theological aspect.”


Having long been a fan of novels with Catholic and/or historical twists, I thoroughly enjoyed Gary McAvoy’s debut book in this series when I read it a few months ago. Now, with the sequel ready for publication, I eagerly accepted a copy to see how the adventure would continue. A new relic is hidden, news of scandalous proportions awaits, and a man is out to avenge the death of his father. All this and more in a single book. Perfect for readers who loved the first book or are searching for something thrilling!

Father Michael Dominic has been enjoying his work as Prefect of the Secret Archives within the Vatican, dealing with some of the most sensitive documents the Church has in its possession. When he is asked to help with a research project, Dominic collects some old manuscripts and uncovers a 13th century puzzle that could be highly important.

After consulting his friend, Swiss journalist Hana Sinclair, Dominic realises what he’s got in his possession. It’s a map of a cave that is said to possess a valuable reliquary once owned by Mary Magdelene. Eager to see it for himself, Dominic convinces two members of the Swiss Guard to accompany him as they troll through the cave.

Unbeknownst to Dominic, his safety may soon be in jeopardy. Recently banished Cardinal Dante has a bone to pick with Dominic, who cost him the prized position of Vatican Secretary of State. Dante reveals that Dominic was involved in a raid that cost a powerful Croat his life. Now, the man’s son seeks revenge and is happy to destroy Dominic any way we can. Ivan Gović learns of Dominic’s cave adventure and plans to kill the priest while collecting the reliquary for himself.

While Dominic and his crew head to France to follow the map’s direction, Dante begins plotting his own return to power by blackmailing the one man who stands in his way. What Dante learns will not only shock the upper ranks of Vatican membership, but could ruin a man’s life as well. With little regard for anyone else, Cardinal Dante makes his move and waits for the dominoes to fall.

Inside the cave, Dominic retrieves the reliquary and notices an important message on its side; one that could change the face of Christianity. However, before he’s able to leave the cave, Gović and his henchmen arrive to collect the prize and seek to block the exit. With Dominic trapped in the cave, it could mean his end, once and for all.

News of the reliquary causes a stir in certain circles, especially once the contents are verified. Gović is sent on a final mission that could earn him great financial wealth, but it will not be as easy as it seems.

With pure determination, Dominic finds a way out of the cave, but still needs to get his hands on the reliquary before it can be sold off and hidden away anew. It will take much grit and determination to find Gović and ensure these secrets do not end up in the wrong hands. It’s a race across Europe and no one is entirely sure where they’re headed next!

Gary McAvoy has not only a great deal of skill when it comes to writing, but also knows how to spin a tale that will keep the reader wanting to know more. Mixing history, religion, politics, and science, McAvoy has crafted a thrilling piece of fiction that just may have some degree of reality buried in the narrative.

Michael Dominic plays a key role in this piece, serving as the quasi-protagonist. His determination to help uncover secrets is like no other. While the first book dealt with a lot of his backstory, there is a degree of that past that emerges in this piece as well. His focus on the prize, the reliquary, drives him throughout the book, though he remains clueless to some of the outside forces that seek to shape him. The interactions between Dominic and Hana Sinclair are obvious to the reader, but seem to fly over the head of the young priest, at least outwardly.

Hana Sinclair heads up a group of strong supporting characters in this piece. She remains determined to uncover the truth no matter what, using her skills and grit to stay one step ahead of everyone else. A number of other characters work well with the various subplots that emerge in the piece, all of which develop independently before coming together in the final pages. McAvoy does a wonderful job of populating his novel with credible characters, all of whom have their own missions.

When it comes to religious thrillers, there are times when the reader must suspend belief and go with what is being presented. McAvoy’s plot delves less into the biblically fanciful and deals primarily with what might actually happen. His story builds throughout and stays relatively plausible, keeping the reader guessing. There are aspects of politics and science, both of which are handled effectively, as well as portions that are straight thrills, perfect for the reader who wants an adventure. I am eager to see where McAvoy wants to take his novels from here, as he writes in such a way that the reader can never get enough. I suppose we’ll have to wait, but I know it will be worth it!

Kudos, Mr. McAvoy, for another stellar novel. Your gift of suspense does not go unnoticed and I hope others are as captivated as I was throughout this experience.