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by Juan Gómez-Jurado
Dutton, April 2007
368 pages
ISBN: 0525949941

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

With everyone no doubt having overdosed on Dan Brown and possibly to a lesser extent Hannibal Lecter it is nice to find a book that is subtle in the way the story is told. GOD’S SPY is the début novel by Spanish novelist Juan Gómez-Jurado and this novel has already been a best-seller in over 30 countries. It is not hard to see why.

The book is set around the death of Pope John Paul II. Italian Police Inspector Paola Dicanti of the Italian Violent Crime Unit and an FBI-trained profiler finds herself summoned to the Vatican where the brutally mutilated body of a cardinal has been found. The thought of a murder taking place at the Vatican is abhorrent but this is in fact what has happened.

Much to Dicanti’s dismay she finds out that this is not actually the first victim rather the second; the Vatican having disposed of the first body and all the evidence. As far as the Vatican authorities are concerned they are determined to hinder her progress and keep ever thing a secret. In this, they are aided and abetted by Fabio Dante the arrogant, ruthless, and brutal head of the Vatican Police who will stoop to anything for his own gain.

Dicanti’s only ally is a mysterious American priest and former Army intelligence officer Anthony Fowler whose intimate knowledge of the killer is critical to the case and someone who has his own agenda.

The serial killer is a paedophilic priest who not only has a history of violence but is also a deeply dysfunctional person. His aim is to get rid of all the important cardinals that are congregating at the Vatican to take part in the impending conclave for the new Pope. With the skirmish between Dicanti, Fowler and the serial killer taking place against the background of the Vatican City it is at times hard to fathom such heinous crimes taking place on such holy ground.

The fact that we know whom the serial killer is from the start does not detract from this excellent story. There are secrets galore in this novel and Gómez-Jurado has a talent for keeping the reader guessing all through the book.

Set during the period of April 2 to 20 2005 GOD’S SPY is an action-packed read that hits you with a thump. Grisly, thought-provoking and suspenseful, what we have with this début novel is a illuminating and fascinating tale with enough twists and changes in direction to satisfy any lover of dark gothic suspense. It's certainly not a book for the faint-hearted.

The characters are certainly worth spending time with. Dicanti is a persuasive and understanding heroine who has her work cut out trying to deal with the rather callous head of the Vatican Police and Fowler, who is a willing foil to all of this. Even the romantic element that creeps in is not a distraction.

Whilst I found that at times that parts of the translation did not actually gel very well it wasn’t so disruptive to prevent me from enjoying the book

There is no doubt that comparisons will be made with Dan Brown’s and Thomas Harris' books but in my view that would be a disaster. I am also sure that because of the author’s portrayal of the Catholic Church, warts and al,l it will bring out the hatred in some. I just wonder how long it will take before it is made into a film. GOD'S SPY is a book not to be missed.

Reviewed by Ayo Onatade, April 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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