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The Malachi Covenant
A holy relic. An Ancient Biblical prophecy. A chance to heal the Catholic Church—or drive it apart forever. When the Vatican announces that Pope Peter will present a holy relic, a rib bone of Saint Nicholas, to the Russian people on Christmas Eve, the world is paying attention. St. Nicholas is revered by the Russian people, and the Vatican hopes that the Pope’s historic visit to Moscow will not only ease political tensions with Russia, but help heal the thousand-year schism between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the West. The team chosen to extract the relic from Saint Nicholas’s tomb beneath the Basilica di San Nicola in Bari, Italy, is headed by Professor Sizel Bruscoli, from the University of Bari, and his trusted assistant, biblical archeologist Maggie Shepherd. They have been granted the right to study the relic before it is handed over to the Church and transported to Moscow. But as soon as the rib bone is removed from the tomb, the scientists are confronted with evidence of the relic’s remarkable power. Strange things begin happening—people are healed, a mysterious symbol appears, and an ancient scripture takes on new and unexplained meaning. Rumors of the relic’s healing power reaches a cancer-stricken Russian oligarch, Nikolai Todorov, who decides the relic might be his last chance for survival. He hires an old colleague, Malachi Popov, to steal it for him. A devout man who has turned his life around, Popov wants nothing to do with the scheme, but he desperately needs the money to help his ailing mother. Besides, Todorov leaves him little choice. Popov quickly hatches a plot to steal the relic from the safe at the University, but before he delivers the relic to Todorov, he too witnesses its miraculous powers. Recognizing the enormous error he’s made—an artifact this powerful must stay with the Church—he tries to set things right, but before he can do so, the relic is stolen. With the Pope’s Christmas Eve presentation edging ever closer, a frantic pursuit begins across three continents, with everyone from the Pope’s most trusted consiglieres to Shepherd and Popov setting off on a globe-spanning chase to find the relic before time runs out. Popov and Maggie find their way to each other and unite on their quest to recover the relic, but Todorov has his own men on the trail as well, and the dying oligarch has sinister plans in the works if he finds the treasured artifact first. Todorov wants nothing more than to unmask the church that has failed him and the false faith it peddles, and sees his opportunity to bring down the powerful pontiff during the Christmas Eve ceremony, which will be broadcast live around the world. As Maggie and Popov race against the clock, the Pope’s team moves forward with his pilgrimage to Moscow, though the Pope does not realize the relic he is carrying with him is a fake. Maggie and Popov are confronted with danger at every turn and come to recognize that if the treasured original artifact is not recovered, much more than an opportunity to bring healing to the Church will be lost. The Malachi Covenant is a globe-spanning, fast-paced thriller that asks big questions about the history of the Church and the power of belief, as well as illuminates the forgotten story of the revered Saint Nicholas of Myra, the man who would become Santa Claus.
In this riveting historical thriller, biblical archeologists, hired guns for the Russian mob, and the Vatican are scrambling to get their hands on the ancient relic of Saint Nicholas, purportedly a “manifestation of God’s majesty” believed to have uncanny healing powers. Maggie Shepherd and her mentor, Professor Sizel Bruscoli, are tasked with retrieving the relic for the Vatican as a peace offering to end a millennia-spanning conflict between the Eastern and Western Catholic Church. Maggie has faith, but Bruscoli is a skeptic who often “jumps on” Maggie for letting religion “interfere” with her work, though a surprise diagnosis and a series of dreams will test the professor’s certainty. Complicating matters: Maggie and her team aren’t the only ones on the chase. Malachi Popov is on a mission to recover the relic at the behest of a dying Russian mob boss, who believes it will heal him.

Kelly pens an intricate historical adventure that spans millennia as he weaves in factual details of Nicholas' life in historical flashbacks and exciting travelogue elements as Maggie and Malachi touch down in Rome, Bari, and Moscow in search of answers. No one is safe in Kelly's narrative, and readers who appreciate a blend of archaeological exploration, mysteries of faith, and international chases will find much to enjoy, never quite knowing who to trust. Kelly escalates the tension as more interested parties are revealed, a host of secrets and lies face exposure, and Bruscoli faces the possibility of the miraculous.

Rich in culture, themes of belief, and the grand implications of its relic, The Malachi Covenant exemplifies its genre, blending brisk plotting, action-packed sequences, and jolting betrayals with thoughtful spiritual inquiry, keeping the suspense potent up to a satisfying conclusion. Fans of historical fiction with biblical context and globe trotting adventure will be engaged and immersed in this intricately woven story with larger than life characters.

Takeaway: Memorable thriller of the hunt for a relic and possible miracles.

Comparable Titles: Gary McAvoy; Raymond Khoury.

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