Craig Reynolds, a dashing and enigmatic jewel thief who “aborts elaborate alarm systems, unlocks the most intricate vaults, and eludes massive manhunts,” has stumbled on a golden opportunity. On a train to Rome, he runs into Darlena Aldonzo, a beautiful Italian gymnast who had previously been his hostage—the sense of mutual respect and admiration that led him to release her is now blossoming into something more. Unable to resist his charms, Darlena goes against her better judgment and agrees to spend time visiting the eternal city with her former captor. She even takes him to meet her dear friend Thad, a priest who currently works at the Vatican. Thad conveniently reveals to Craig that he is the only person alive who possesses a map of the Vatican’s vast underground catacombs—a chance Craig can’t pass up. As Darlena allows herself to be drawn into Craig’s plans, a terrible danger brews in the background and threatens to complicate the heist and put all of their lives in danger: a group of ruthless cardinals is plotting to usurp the pope. Meanwhile, INTERPOL Detective Martin Von Meier, who has been chasing Craig for years, is getting closer. Gallant has created likable main characters who careen from one unbelievable scenario to the next, but his emphasis is clearly on their predicaments. Within the first 20 pages of meeting Darlena, she is almost drowned, almost raped, almost strangled, kidnapped, and finally chased by a gang of rioters “plundering” a commuter train—all before the main plot begins. The rest of the novel follows this aggressive pattern, delivering well-staged, suspenseful action sequences in rapid succession but leaving little time for much else. Craig’s disabled sister, for example, vanishes from the novel. Some may be disappointed that Gallant didn’t devote more time to the intriguing relationship between his two leads, but those who love page-turning thrillers will be delighted that, for these characters, danger lurks everywhere.
A thriller that delivers real excitement but glosses many gripping plot points.