Mariani’s debut is a globetrotting action fantasy with one eye fixed firmly on The Da Vinci Code and the other on Hollywood.
Does any of this sound familiar? Centuries ago, a beloved artist got in bad with a powerful fraternal organization because one of his best-known productions contained codes that revealed its most closely guarded secrets. The artist died, but the organization lives on as an international conspiracy that’s still working criminal mischief all over the map of present-day Europe. This time around, the artist is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the tell-all production is The Magic Flute, and the conspirators are the Order of Ra, a rogue Masonic faction whose hobby is ritual murder. Instead of sweating the details of the artist’s life or work or the specific content or meaning of the codes that so threatened the Masons, or even convincingly linking conspiracies past and present, Mariani falls back on that old chestnut, the British agent reunited with the girl he left behind. The spy is Benedict Hope, whose SAS assignment is to rescue kidnap victims. The lady is opera star Leigh Llewellyn, whose brother Oliver was executed last year after he stumbled across the Order of Ra's latest handiwork. Leigh has spent 15 years getting over Ben, but he’s still the person she calls when she barely escapes a kidnap attempt herself. Sure enough, her troubles stem from the book Olly had been writing about Mozart’s death. The search for clues, coupled with a chase after bad guys, sometimes away from them, takes Ben and Leigh—and soon enough, their ally, Viennese cop Markus Kinski—across the Continent in brief chapters headed by place names you just know will appear as subtitles in the movie version too.
Mariani likes to separate his heroes so that he can cut back and forth between them as they’re getting simultaneously ambushed in equally picturesque locales. Nor is he averse to a high body count. Apart from the rumor that he was poisoned, though, don’t expect to learn much about Mozart.