Daniel Silva's new spy thriller, which is riding on the coattails
of his bestseller THE ENGLISH ASSASSIN, proves without a doubt that
conspiracy is still alive today and thriving in Europe without the
aid of communism --- in fiction, anyway. For the material in this
book, Silva reaches back to the source of the oldest conspiracies
that still exist in the modern world: the Roman Catholic Church.
You may not believe in God --- in fact, it might help if you don't
--- but you will believe in the potential deviousness of the men of
God by the end of THE CONFESSOR.
From Venice to Rome to Munich to a villa in Switzerland, from a
convent on a lake in the foothills of the Alps to London and then
on to France and back again, this book gets around at a fast and
convincing pace. Everyone is flawed --- the main characters have
all killed and will kill again if they must. The difference is in
what motivates them to kill. You learn to make your choices about
who to root for by distinguishing among shades of gray. The only
really good guy, i.e. non-killer, happens to be the pope.
In a fictional near future, there is a new pope in Rome. A former
cardinal of Venice, the new guy goes by the name of Paul VII. He
was a compromise candidate, a "caretaker pope" elected when the
presumed strongest candidate couldn't come up with enough votes in
the College of Cardinals. It is soon evident, however, that the new
pope isn't as harmless as certain movers and shakers of the Curia
thought he'd be --- and so the ball is set in motion.
In Munich, a well-respected professor is murdered. The professor
was a Jew, returning to Germany for his scholarship after a time in
Israel. He was currently on sabbatical and writing a book, keeping
the research very close to his chest; the research and manuscript
are missing when his body is found. In Venice, an art restorer, a
mysterious man who works upon a shrouded scaffold and lives
perpetually in solitude, receives a call he cannot refuse. The
professor was not just a friend, but a comrade-in-arms of old.
Gabriel, the artist, must leave the beloved madonna he has been
bringing back to life on the wall of an ancient church in order to
find out who killed his friend. This is not a personal duty --- he
is ordered to go for the branch of the Israeli Secret Service to
which he still belongs. But when things get really dicey and
another agent tries to send him home to Israel, Gabriel continues
to look for his friend's killer.
Meanwhile, in and around Rome, the cardinal who wanted to be pope
but didn't get enough votes is stirring his secret ecclesiastical
pot. It seems that there is an organization within the church, so
long rumored without confirmation that, even within the Vatican,
some think it's a myth --- this organization is called Crux Vera.
These men are so right-wing they make Opus Dei look moderate. They
are not all priests; some are among the wealthiest businessmen in
Europe, as were their predecessors, who turn out to have been at
the heart of a previous shameful situation that was covered up by
the church and by a previous pope at the time of World War II. They
don't do their dirty work themselves. Rather, they hire the best
--- and they reach out for a man in Switzerland who is known
throughout Europe as the Leopard, yet he has been so seldom seen
that some think he, too, is a myth. Dig deep enough into the
Leopard's past and you will find he was once a seminarian.
The plot of THE CONFESSOR is complex, yes, but it's so believable
that, by the end of the book, you will be wondering how much of
this might really have happened, or might happen yet. It's a fine,
absorbing read --- especially if you'd like something that feels
current and will occupy your mind so thoroughly that, for a while,
you can forget about what's going on in the rest of the
Reviewed by Ava Dianne Day on January 21, 2011