A suspenseful thriller that weaves together journalistic research and fictional embellishments in a tale of a stolen religious artifact.
The priceless San Pedro cross, recovered by professional salvagers off the Bermuda coast, is stolen from the Bermuda Maritime Museum and replaced with an artfully crafted forgery. Anthony Fallon, one of the divers who originally discovered the cross, is made aware of its disappearance; a secretive group of Catholic cardinals is, as well, and its members pursue the artifact zealously for reasons that are initially obscure. After official investigations into the matter repeatedly come up empty, the matter seems closed; however, when Kat Alexander, Anthony’s diving partner, dies, an obituary photograph reveals that she’s wearing a necklace that may contain a special key—one that “opened a secret compartment in the historic Chair of St. Peter allowing access to the very first papal ring,” which belonged to St. Peter; it also may house the real cross. The church pressures Howard, Kat’s husband, to exhume her remains and retrieve the key. Meanwhile, Howard solicits Anthony’s aid in finding his daughter, Sarah, who’s lost at sea. Anthony agrees, despite their mutual dislike due to past romantic tension between Anthony and Kat. Both men wrestle with her loss while also trying to locate the real cross. This novel serves as a sequel to Bentley’s The Cross (2014), but its plot is self-sufficient enough to be read independently. That said, there are repeated references to pertinent events and relationships in the first book, so it may best be enjoyed in tandem with it. The author skillfully blends his meticulous investigative research into real-life Christian history with creative drama, turning an already fascinating story into a gripping mystery. The subplot concerning the Silenti, a cadre of furtive, conspiratorial priests apparently unrestrained by morality, is formulaic, even tired, and it’s one that will be all-too-familiar to readers of pulp thrillers; even the group’s name is saturated with melodrama. The book remains a fast-paced pleaser, though, delivering action and emotionally intelligent characterization.
Not exactly a genre buster but still an enjoyable mystery best devoured immediately after Bentley’s first effort.