A thriller that entertainingly traverses well-traveled territory.

Sacred Blood

THE VATICAN ASSASSIN

A debut murder mystery that revolves around a long-standing history of secrecy at the Vatican.

Anthony Hibbert is the head of classical studies at UCLA and spends most of his time researching ancient Roman texts, most recently at the Vatican Library Secret Archives. He becomes intoxicated by a series of letters written by a 16th-century monk, Federigo Dottore, who ultimately confessed to being an assassin of Pope Julius II. Meanwhile, the current pope prepares for a visit from Avinash Sullivan, a technology billionaire who fronts an activist movement that demands that the Vatican radically improve its transparency. Some people fear that powerful people, who want to keep the Vatican’s internal affairs hidden, may harm Sullivan, and Hibbert is recruited to warn him (although the explanation for his selection is confusing). Sullivan is murdered in his hotel and Hibbert is arrested as a prime suspect, but he’s quickly exonerated. He returns to his scholarly investigations, during which he stumbles upon previously undiscovered, sensual sketches by the famed artist Raphael. On the back of these drawings is Dottore’s handwriting, and a beautiful, Japanese security expert named Akemi Morishima helps Hibbert decipher it. When other suspects in Sullivan’s death are murdered, it complicates an already tangled affair. It’s easy to lose one’s bearings in this story’s swarm of twists and turns, and author Amezquita seems content to let readers stew in their confusion. However, Dottore’s letters, which are presented at considerable length, are a delight to read, as they’re simultaneously sinister and repentant. Also, the author does a marvelous job of making Hibbert a remarkable but endearingly human character. His vulnerability can be striking: “He cannot stop thinking about his date with Akemi while he repeatedly touches his wallet to feel the set of condoms he has slipped into it. Buying them had been an ordeal. He felt the humiliation of a teenager.” Murder mysteries that center on Vatican skullduggery have become a popular genre, and this fits almost too neatly within that formula. This book’s historical astuteness and crackling eroticism, though, justify ranking it among the better options of its type.

A thriller that entertainingly traverses well-traveled territory.

Pub Date: March 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-58124-7

Page Count: 472

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2016

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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