Overstuffed thriller, not nearly as smooth as Rabb’s first (The Overseer, 1998), about religion, ambition, murderous metaphysicians, dark doings in the Vatican, a virtuous priest, and some sinning cardinals.
In 1992, as a final test of his faith before becoming a priest, Ian Pearse joins a relief mission to Bosnia. There he meets beautiful Croatian freedom fighter Petra. And falls in love. And fathers a child, unbeknownst to him. Then opts for the priesthood after all. Flash forward to the present. Father Ian is now a scholar-researcher in Rome, spending his days in the Vatican Library. A strange, very old, very mysterious document falls into his hands (think: Dead Sea Scrolls but even more significant), and suddenly he’s being chased by all sorts of people eager to relieve him of it. Among them are a couple of warring cardinals, once friends, now inimical enemies, who see in Ian’s find the link to “one pure church in a world beset by darkness.” A church, incidentally, that can be born only after their own Catholic church is gathered into history. That much the cardinals agree on, but neither trusts the other to get things done selflessly. And they’re right not to, egocentric opportunists that both have become. Fleeing to protect his treasure and his life Ian reconnects with Petra and meets her son Ivo, instantly the apple of his eye. By this time, Ian understands he’s guarding something that reaches back to an ancient and infamous conspiracy with scary modern implications, and that the ruthless red-robed scoundrels will stop at nothing to gain their ends. But inside Father Ian is an action hero struggling to get out, and with the stakes at max – lovely Petra, little Ivo, and all of Christianity – he rises to Rambo heights.
Digressive churchy lore heedlessly hobbles narrative pace.