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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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