I love Steve Berry’s books, his clever plots, and his well-painted characters, but this one left me flat, for four reasons: one general and three specific.
In general, as a Catholic, I am used to authors such as Berry who dislike Catholicism, Christianity in general, and religion as a whole. Nothing new in our ultra-secular, materialist culture and it sells well. Criticism is good and necessary and often humorous. Few can argue that either faith in general or the Church in particular cannot benefit from it. But what I read was not criticism or poking fun but disdain. It is gratuitous, unnecessary, and in my opinion harms the story’s appeal.
Specifically, three things consistently cause the book to ring hollow throughout, taking the energy out of the book. One, all the clerics in the story are monsters. Not one or two multifaceted characters who have chosen evil in certain actions, but all grotesque caricatures. One monster cleric is believable, but all clerics being monsters makes the bad guys ridiculous and unbelievable. Silly rather than scary. That hurts the story. At least one lowly good guy priest should have been included to make it more believable. Or a priest who does evil things believing that they are good or believing that they are necessary for a greater good. Ends justifying the means, etc. Grey is a lot more interesting and believable than everything being black or white.
Second, not a single cleric or person related to the Church displays the most basic faith. Even if one believes that the Church and the Catholic faith are wholly invalid, the fact remains that priests, bishops, and archbishops do have faith. Some to be sure are cold, calculating, power hungry, and criminal, but they retain a basic faith, even if they choose evil. Even if they all lost their faith over time, they would at least speak with the language of faith, instead of the language of murderous bureaucrats as in the book.
Third, finally (spoiler alert), the plot revolves around a lost 4th century blueprint document that instructs bishops on bogus doctrines to create the Church and control the masses. Again, even if one believes that the Church, its doctrines, and religion in general are wholly invalid, it is completely unbelievable that the Church or the Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem - a 906 year old Catholic lay religious order whose motto is to defend the faith and serve their Lords the poor and sick - would keep a copy of such a document. I was expecting something more clever than a piece of paper that says ‘the Church is bogus’.
- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: MACMILLAN USA INTERNATIONAL ED (19 March 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1250225655
- ISBN-13: 978-1250225658
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3 x 23.1 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 440 g
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