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by David Hewson
Dell, December 2004
496 pages
ISBN: 0440242118

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Sara Farnese, a young, beautiful professor whose speciality is early Christianity, is doing research in the Vatican library, when another professor, carrying a shopping bag and acting strangely, makes a beeline for Sara. He quotes Tertullian ('The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church') and takes a strange bloody fabric from his bag . . . the skin of a flayed man. A Swiss Guard kills him before Sara can make sense of what is happening.

Rome policemen Nic Costa and Luca Rossi are in St Peter's Square watching for pickpockets when they hear of the shooting within the Vatican. They rush in, only to be told by Brendan Hanrahan, head of Vatican security, that they are on the soil of another country and have no jurisdiction within its walls.

Only a few minutes later, the body of a man who had been skinned alive, and a woman who had been hanged, are found in a nearby church. The flayed man is Sara's English lover, the man she had braved the August heat in Rome to see. The woman is the wife of the professor who had carried the skin to Sara.

This is a serial killer book with a difference. Each body found has a connection to Sara. Each person has been murdered in a different way, all relating to early Christian martyrs.

Costa is an interesting character. Somewhat of a maverick like his father, he tries to protect Sara while investigating the crimes that have a close tie to the Vatican.

Apparently this is the first in a series of police procedurals with Nic Costa as protagonist. He is an engaging young man. The author also is able to show the venality of the church and how far it will go to protect itself. Don't bother to read THE DA VINCI CODE if you haven't done so yet. A SEASON FOR THE DEAD is less paranoid and more realistic, with real characters.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, November 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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