Email this review


A state of corruption exists in the Mystical Body of Christ--the Church, that is--in this excellently plotted melodrama peopled with 3-D human beings; by the author of 1977's well-received Hangman. At a London restaurant, an Italian with a weak heart, named Barralozzi, who is an official with the Vatican Bank, makes a deal with a Swiss go-between to accept some forged bonds--but the Swiss slips some digitalis into Barralozzi's drink, and the Italian is fatally stricken within a few hours while in the saddle with a high-priced call girl. The repercussions of his death involve Barralozzi's sister, Mrs. Ropner, who is married to a high British government official (the Earl of Wadebury) and who has secretly used her husband's privileged information to make a killing with her brother in the currency market during a recent sterling crisis. The money with which they speculated and made their killing was borrowed from the Vatican Bank. So it is that the new director of the new Central Crimes Bureau appoints his former lover, Antonia Strachan, to make some sense out of this case. Antonia begins by interviewing the Earl of Wadebury, who has sent a letter to the PM exposing the Ropner currency scandal. Antonia gets little out of the Earl, but while driving his browbeaten son to London, she learns that the son--just hack from Italy--was also pivotal in his mother's and uncle's currency coup. Then Antonia is given a helper, Ludo Fender, an overweight widower, butterfly fancier, and ingenious investigator, who comes out of semiretirement to work with her. Soon, they find young Wadebury suicided. Evidence points to a Vatican Bank hit team, the Vigiles, out to avenge the Church. Does the Pope know these nuts are out killing for Christ? Or is the Vigiles' flag-waving for the Pope a mere red herring? Both Antonia, a divorcÉe in her mid-30s, and Ludo have weight on the page, derived mainly from the pain they endure in their daily lives. All in all: every page nicely felt.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1986
Publisher: Henry Holt