An exuberant, deeply involved thriller woven around the history of the Shroud of Turin.
After yet another fire in Turin Cathedral, Marco Valoni, chief of the Italian Art Crimes Department, decides there is something suspicious going on in the great church that houses the world-renowned Shroud. There have been too many suspicious blazes over the past half-century, and in each case the arsonists responsible have been discovered with their tongues cut out. The most recent suspect is still in jail, refusing to cooperate. Valoni decides to track down the heads of scientific groups that have visited the shroud over the last decades. He also enlists the talented men and women in his agency to come up with some leads. Art expert Sofia Galloni urges her boss to release the tongueless suspect in hopes that he will lead them to his confederates. Alternating with Valoni’s crime investigation, which widens to include the very rich heads of world companies, is a Biblical history of the shroud itself. In these portions, King Abgar of Edessa sends his childhood friend Josar as an emissary to Jerusalem. Josar’s mission is to convince the legendary Jesus of Nazarus to come to Edessa, heal the king of leprosy and share his kingdom. Instead, Josar becomes a disciple and later returns to Edessa with Jesus’ shroud. Before Agbar’s non-Christian heir can torture him to reveal the shroud’s hidden location, Josar removes his own tongue. This is just the beginning of a wildly complicated history, exhaustively delineated by the author, that ultimately lands the shroud with the Templars, whose modern representatives want it back. Spanish journalist Navarro distinguishes her fiction debut from routine suspense fodder by ending this convoluted tale with realistic ambiguity rather than wrapping up all the loose ends.
Terrifically lively characterizations and the author’s passion for her subject make this one stand out.