Father Jonah Barlow is dead. The respected Jesuit scholar of apocalyptic studies might have died from a fall in his apartment . . . or was he pushed? All that is known for sure is that the provocative manuscript he was working on—a book that promised to reveal the upcoming fulfillment of ancient and recent prophecies, including the ghastly and shocking Third Secret of Fatima—is missing.
Two female detectives—one from Chicago, the other from Rome—take on the investigation as a possible homicide, turning to Vatican archivist Father Michael Dominic for his help, since Barlow sent the young priest the only other copy of the manuscript.
Newly elected Pope Ignatius, Enrico Petrini, intent on verifying the content of the manuscript against the original handwritten version of the Third Secret—which has been kept sequestered in the Pope’s personal vault for decades—discovers that the keys have been stolen. The search is on for the only other set, kept safely in the hands of a trusted monk in Jerusalem. Meanwhile, a sinister ancient order known as the Knights of the Apocalypse seem to be using the predictions of the manuscript to create fear and chaos as the prophecies appear to be coming fulfilled. Is the end of the world imminent?
From Chicago to Jerusalem to Scotland, from Rome to the ancient island nation of Malta, join Father Dominic, journalist Hana Sinclair, their trusted team of Swiss Guards, a French commando, and the two detectives as they solve the bewildering puzzles of the Petrus Prophecy.
Plot/Idea: This thoughtfully-composed thriller mystery novel is set around ancient prophecy and the Vatican.
Prose: The prose is straightforward, and sometimes even thrilling as it propels the action scenes.
Originality: While the genre here is somewhat niche in nature, McAvoy and Moore are seasoned and skilled storytellers, offering a fine blend of action, adventure, and history.
Character Development/Execution: The numerous characters could be described in greater depth. The two female detectives, Rebecca Lancaster and Sabrini Felici, come most alive on the page and exist outside of their careers and professional aspirations, as the audience gets to know them as individuals.
Date Submitted: April 13, 2022
McAvoy, working with Ronald L. Moore, hits the ground running in this propulsive thriller, which adeptly blends ancient mysteries and secret societies with contemporary procedural storytelling. The clues and surprises come quickly as Lancaster and her counterpart in Rome, the Carabinieri’s captain Sabrina Felici, race about in an old Ferrari that, as Felici puts it, “handles Rome’s chaotic traffic like a dominatrix.” Such character touches and a sense of playful fun keep the material from getting bleak or self-serious, even as the stakes prove biblical in scale.
Devotees of religious-secrets thrillers will find much here that’s engaging, if not exactly novel, as the heroes and their allies attempt not just to solve a murder but to learn the truth of the Third Secret—and eventually face the schemes of the Knights of the Apocalypse, a secret society of immense power who stirs a public frenzy with its revelations. The authors have revelations of their own, the welcome jolts and secrets that distinguish this series.
Takeaway: This superior Vatican conspiracy thriller puts a Chicago cop on the trail of an apocalyptic prophecy.
Great for fans of: Ray Keating, Peter Hogankamp.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A
Another ARC from my immensely talented namesake, and a particularly exciting instalment to his Vatican mysteries series. As with all Gary’s books, you know exactly what to expect: a likeable, intelligent and virtuously trustworthy team of amateur sleuths; a powerful and arch-criminal nemesis; and an incredible amount of factual research, mixed with creative licence. The only thing you don’t know is which ancient artefact or religious doctrine will be the focus. I have to admit, half a dozen or so books into the series, this group of clerical crime-fighters is really starting to grow on me, and now layers particularly of arguably main character Father Michael Dominic are being peeled back with each outing, I’m liking it.
This time, what is at stake would appear to be the very Apocalypse itself, and the team are not charged with stopping it, so much, as uncovering the potential fraud it obviously is, who is behind it and why. In doing so, they carry out their usual globetrotting and puzzle-solving, all the while with the Vatican as their home base and primary setting. Gary is an extraordinary author, absolutely unique in the respect that I have really come across one so meticulous, so well educated in terms of theology, history and geo-politics. He is the type of professional that the rest of us can only aspire to be, and even helpfully sets out for us in an actually very welcome appendix just what is reality and what is created in his book; it is fair to say that most of us will clearly see just what actual knowledge Gary is sharing with us throughout. Obviously no-one is born with that level of innate knowledge, and most of us don’t graduate with it either, so I think it is fair to say that he has done a tremendous, jaw dropping amount of research into this book, as with all in this series. Sometimes, I’ll admit, these books feel like a showcase for this knowledge and research, particularly geographical, but I say if you have it, flaunt it; and if you don’t have it, learn it. Gary shows us mere mortal writers how fact-based fiction should be done.
Admittedly, the books in the series all adhere to formula, and this is no different: the first half is usually spent building the intrigue and creating the story; the second half is when all the action happens – and Gary does a good job, as always, of incorporating all of his action-oriented cast. This is a pretty good instalment to the saga, and definitely one of my favourites. But, as always with these books, the outstanding, flabbergasting work of the author and his factual-creativity are the real stars. The way he crafts the copiously abundant facts into fiction is quite simply stunning.
A “Must Read” 🏆
“Gary McAvoy never ceases to amaze with his stellar writing, one of the reasons I rushed to begin the latest novel in the Vatican Secret Archive series, featuring Father Michael Dominic. As McAvoy collaborates with Ronald L. Moore, they examine yet another mystery housed within the Vatican, while sinister forces seek to push the limits once again. McAvoy and Moore guide readers through a historical event shrouded in secrecy, providing plausible possibilities, which only amp up the level of curiosity. The story of the Secrets of Fatima is one known to many Catholics around the world. When Pope John Paul II revealed the third secret in 2000, he did so to dispel much of the hype that had built up over the past forty years, when his predecessors began refusing to share the secret with the general public. Now, an American priest and scholar is dead, and a group known as the Knights of the Apocalypse (KOTA) claim that the End Times are nigh, as they prepare to reveal the true text of the secret. Father Michael Dominic is pulled into the middle, seeking to find the true document and ensure the sitting pope is privy to its meaning, so that the Church can face its enemies, including those from within. McAvoy and Moore do a sensational job with the action and posit some intriguing possibilities for the reader to synthesise.
When three children saw a vision of the Holy Mother in 1917, their small Portuguese town was put on the map. The Three Secrets of Fatima became one of the major miracles chronicled by the Church. Two of the three secret, depicting premonitions, were revealed, though the third, so shocking and scandalous, was never publicly shared. Popes shied away from it, as its truths, speaking of the End of Days, were too problematic. Seeking to dilute the gossip and wonder, Pope John Paul II shed light on the secret in 2000, though many believe it was a false message meant to extinguish flames of speculation and curiosity.
When a priest and scholar working on a piece about the truth surrounding the Third Secret is found murdered in Chicago, a local police constable cannot help but wonder if there is a Vatican connection. When the name of Father Michael Dominic enters the discussion, said constable is keen to learn more from the man who heads the Vatican Secret Archives. A trip to Rome is in order, where the constable connects with one of her Italian counterparts to open an international investigation.
After approaching Father Dominic, he is just as confused as they are, but soon learns that there is more to the story than meets the eye. During the nefarious past few years, it would seem that the sitting pope was not given access to a key collection of documents, which include the Third Secret of Fatima. All the while, a group calling itself the Knights of the Apocalypse (KOTA) begins broadcasting news that they are in the possession of the Secret and will soon reveal it. This pushes Catholics around the world into a panic and places the Vatican on the defensive.
While Father Dominic and his core team race around Europe to locate a key that will grant the sitting pope access to a safe that contains the true documents, they are followed by those who would rather see them dead. Dominic soon learns how important these documents could be, as well as the importance to obtain the truth before KOTA wrestles control of the Vatican’s trust away from the world at large. What neither Dominic nor the sitting pope can know is just how far some people will go to discredit the Vatican hierarchy once and for all, tied to a handful of men who have been eyeing revenge for years. A brilliant addition to the series, which presents new layers of wonder related to Catholic truths and secrecy within the Holy See.
I have followed Gary McAvoy on this Vatican journey from the opening pages of the debut novel, which gripped me like few other series I have read. Many themes point to a Vatican that remains complex and multi-layered, which mirrors the Catholic Church in general. McAvoy brings Ronald L. Moore in as a collaborator, allowing them to find ways to bring the story to life and create gripping adventures, layered with historical events. The characters grow on the series reader as each story connects seamlessly. The authors provide a great series for all to enjoy, particularly the reader with an interest in all things Vatican.
Father Michael Dominic resumes his role as protagonist of the series, continuing to make his mark. His backstory remains complex and evolving, as series fans have come to discover. Devout in his faith, Dominic enjoys his work within the Vatican Archives, though he finds mysteries outside the walls of the Holy See that keep him constantly on the run. Danger appears to surround him, though he evades it with prowess, rather than pure brawn. The series has moved into some intriguing times, leaving the reader to wonder how Dominic will fit into the larger narrative, particularly with his revelation in the closing pages.
Gary McAvoy has long created a buzz around his stories and the collaborative effort with Ronald L. Moore once again puts the reader in the middle of the action. The narrative develops with each passing chapter, providing mysteries and curiosities sure to leave the reader hungering for more. As the authors intertwiine modern events with historical goings-on, explosive revelations add depth to an already strong foundation. Well-crafted characters, particularly those who reappear and build on their past developments, help create an emotional connection for the reader. While the theme may be the End of Days, once can hope McAvoy (and Moore?) have more to say on the matter, as things have reached a tense point in the series, with an obvious fork in the road towards future developments.
Kudos, Messrs. McAvoy and Moore, for another great piece in the series. You have captivated me yet again!”