Rome and Italy are sinking into political chaos. Earthquakes shake the city. Detective Marco Leone finds his estranged friend, a scholar in the Vatican library, floating dead in the Tiber. The pope falls into a coma after a terrorist bombing. Leone forgoes a sabbatical to investigate the murder of the scholar involved in organizing the Vatican library archives after finding a controversial parchment. The murder is just the first in a series of ritual assassinations and attacks on Christian churches . . . all of which were built over the ancient chapels of the Roman god Mithras.
Set in the near future, Polelle’s intriguing debut centers on a threat to the Catholic Church from a discovery concerning not only St. Paul but the ancient Mithras religion, which Christianity supplanted in the Roman Empire. When Commisario Marco Leone is assigned to investigate a corpse found in Rome’s Tiber River, he realizes to his horror that the dead man, who had the numerals 2, 6, and 5 burned into his flesh, is Abramo Basso, a childhood friend who became a priest and scholar attached to the Vatican library. Basso’s sister visits Leone, who once had a thing for her, and reveals that Basso had found a parchment in the library that he feared would be suppressed by his superior. The text was apparently a letter to Paul that contains several new pieces of information concerning the apostle’s relationship with powerful Romans, including Emperor Nero. Leone’s sleuthing coincides with a campaign by Mithras devotee Lucio Piso, an international businessman and philanthropist, to bring about “political revolution and social resurgence.” Dan Brown fans will be delighted. (Self-published)