If Michael Crichton had written The Thorn Birds, it might have sounded something like this debut thriller, which is crammed with medico-scientific jargon, wild sex and jabs at the Catholic Church.
Our hero is that bad-fiction staple, the hottie priest. Cute as a third-rate Caravaggio, Monsignor Dante Petrocchi-Bianchi is a former exorcist—natch—a multilingual, Vatican-savvy diplomat and an award-winning neuroscientist. That last credential is at least a new twist; perhaps the author was looking to make some use of her Ph.D. in molecular virology. Kenyon sets Dante on a clichéd mission to expose a New England pedophile priest. Masquerading as Father Nicolai’s replacement, the comely cleric hears confession from beauteous Bev Sloan, who’s having bad thoughts about offing her hubby. Nobel-tracked neurologist Conroy Sloan is in the throes of a seismic midlife crisis: He’s driving an antique Porsche and having sex with S&M-leaning, father-fixated lab assistant Leila. Dante tries to put the kibosh on their affair, but soon enough, he’s begun his own tryst with Bev. It’s a bad idea to make Doctor Sloan mad, since Conroy is road-testing a “glowing green virus” that produces symptoms similar to rabies. Frenzied plot twists ensue: Vengeful Bev stabs mocking, incorrigibly philandering Conroy; Dante ultimately makes Cardinal while remaining agonized over his shaky faith; readers find out that Leila had been abused; soap-opera and whodunit worlds collide. The author is certainly no slave to plausibility, and as for the prose, let two purple passages in the novel’s first three pages suffice: When Bev finds pink panties in her husband’s suitcase, “a caged ape rattled her ribs and her stomach snapped like an angry bull shark surging through chum.” And, in his Porsche with Leila, “testosterone or adrenaline or an opiate neurotransmitter crackled in [Conroy’s] spine, riding ionic potentials cresting down axons like surfing the Bonzai pipeline.”
More emetic than erotic.