McAvoy (The Magdalene Chronicles) excels at keeping the story moving at a gallop. Forbidden romances, Nazi sympathizers, murderous commandos, conspiratorial nuns, and a foul-mouthed cardinal all continually turn up, while well-researched details on hand-to-hand combat and firearms lend a strong verisimilitude to the handsomely staged fight scenes. Indeed, McAvoy does a nice job enriching the entire Vatican setting with persuasive detail, from soccer matches among Swiss Guards to the office layout of a powerful bishop. He also can turn a phrase neatly, as when henchmen are described as "chief architects of chaos." Sometimes the action crowds out opportunities for character and thematic development, but it flows so quickly that thriller fans will want to finish the book in a single sitting.
Although the emphasis is on plot, McAvoy does introduce some engaging characters: Dominic has an intriguing backstory that leads to internal struggles, and one of his associates is a delightfully worldly nun who seems to love technology as much as God. Bodyguard Marco provides a welcome contrast to his spiritual charges, and even some bad guys get sympathetic portrayals, like a pathetically ambitious Vatican official who sells his soul to impress his superior. Contrasts like that will have readers cheering on Dominic and his allies as they race to a nail-biting denouement.
Takeaway: International thriller fans will relish the political machinations, nonstop action and the delightfully evil secret societies.
Great for fans of: Steve Berry, William Tyree.
Design and typography: B+
Marketing copy: A-
“I’m a big fan of Gary McAvoy as a writer; his style is tremendous: intelligent, articulate, conscientious, hardworking and incredibly knowledgeable – and that is just to start. He possesses that rare thing which separates a wonderful writer from a wonderful author: a meticulous researcher, whose books are intended for an equally intelligent, discerning reader, who appreciates the better things.
Although fully in possession of Gary’s usual outstanding qualities, this instalment was a particularly wordy one, which may have made it feel longer at times than it actually is. However, it is fair to say that it picks up pace dramatically in the action-packed final third. This author loves his formula, and it works for him; this is another application of the same: an intelligent group of characters, with varied and complementary skillsets and aptitudes, solving a Vatican-implicated crime puzzle.
I really like Gary’s action sequences and I look forward to them, anticipating them almost as a trademark of his work, with their Clancy-esque authenticity of special operative combat techniques. As always, he shows discipline not to overdo the action, by way of keeping his subject matter and genre firmly within the intellectual arena. His attention to detail is formidable in every single area. He makes his research appear innate and effortless, but if there were any doubt how much graft he puts into his writing, he includes a fascinating glossary of the sheer amount of research work involved.
If you haven’t read Gary McAvoy, I strongly recommend it; he is a rare writer indeed.”
“Always eager to read the work of Gary McAvoy, I rushed to begin the latest featuring Father Michael Dominic, which did not disappoint. Exploring another angle of Vatican-based politics and sinister goings-on, McAvoy takes readers through a historical event and provides strong modern action to support it. In this case, all relates to a more recent event, where a mysterious briefcase finds itself in the Vatican Archives. What it contains could not only reveal the existence of a powerful group thought defunct, but also change the path of the Catholic Church forever. It will be up to a handful of dedicated individuals to stop this before it’s too late. Another winner by Gary McAvoy that will have those who love a good thriller on the edge of their seats.
It was early morning one June day in 1982 that Roberto Calvi was discovered hanging under a bridge in London. A man with quite the reputation, some called Calvi “God’s Banker,” for his ties to the Vatican Bank, though it was some of his other connections that left many to wonder if he had upset the wrong person. Missing from the scene was an important briefcase Calvi had the night before, filled with important documents that could cause a great stir if they were revealed. The mystery was never solved, leaving many to wonder if these incriminating documents might still be out there.
Fast forwarding to today, Father Michael Dominic is excited to have a new assistant working with him in the Vatican Archives. There are so many documents in need of reviewing and digitizing that he cannot be sure where to begin. When the Calvi briefcase turns up, it opens quite the conundrum for all involved. Father Dominic knows a little about the briefcase and upon discovering some of its contents, he is eager to learn more. There is proof that a powerful Catholic organisation, Opus Deus, and an outlawed Masonic group P2, have been working together. Not only that, but a safe deposit key could hold the answers to a great deal more.
Working as quietly as they can, Father Dominic and his team try to uncover the mysteries from the briefcase, discovering a cache of diamonds and gold, as well as digital breadcrumbs to more. Before they can make their move, others learn of the discovered cache and make their move to get it back, hopefully to silence any chance that the secret will come to light.
While Father Dominic must head to Geneva to help rescue an old friend, one of his nemeses finds a way out of prison and plots revenge on the priest. With the backing of Opus Deus and P2, Father Dominic’s life could be in danger, especially with what he knows. Upon the discovery of a document called the ‘Opus Dictum’, a truly horrifying plan could soon be in motion, which will deeply change the Catholic Church for the foreseeable future. After the surprise announcement of a new conclave—the election of a pope—causes a stir, Father Dominic knows that his time is limited. Should the Opus Dictum come to fruition, the face of the Church will forever change, and not likely for the better. As cardinals gather and the ceremony begins, two men stand at odds and hope to become the new voice for the Church. Gary McAvoy does a sensational job with this piece and left me eager for more. I cannot wait to see where things go from here.
I have followed Gary McAvoy on this journey since its inception and never found myself straying. The themes that emerge are on point and I am regularly pulled in by the approach of his plot lines. The Vatican is a complex and multi-layered organisation, as is the Catholic Church in general. McAvoy finds ways, through history and artifacts, to bring the story to life and create thrilling adventures for all to enjoy. His characters grow exponentially throughout and the stories connect well together. This is a series that gains momentum with each novel and never seems to lose its way.
Father Michael Dominic continues to impress as the protagonist of the series. His backstory is a little complicated, as series fans will know well, but it is matched by some of the awkwardness he hides in the present that keeps it all highly exciting. A devout Catholic who loves working in the Archives, Dominic finds mysteries fuel him and will stop at nothing to uncover the truth before him. While he may not hunt out danger, there are those around him who seem to attract it, creating an adventurous journey through each of the novels in this series. I am eager to see, with some of the revelations made in this book, how things will change for Father Dominic moving forward and whether there will be a significant shift in his role.
The key to a strong thriller novel is whether the reader can feel themselves begin a part of the action, rather than a passive bystander. Gary McAvoy creates an electric buzz around his stories and puts the reader right in the middle of everything that is going on. His narrative builds with each passing chapter, developing more mysteries and curiosities, while the plot twists repeatedly to keep anyone from knowing exactly what will happen. Intertwining modern events with historical goings-on makes for an explosive story that could go one of many directions. Strong characters, particularly those who reappear and build on their past developments, help create an emotional connection for the reader, as they are swept up in everything that is taking place. While McAvoy packed this book with history and highly descriptive settings, I know this is not the end. While I will have to patiently wait for the next instalment, it will surely be well worth it to see how things continue to play out for all involved.
Kudos, Mr. McAvoy, for another stunning story. You never cease to amaze me with your writing.”