Review

The Secret Supper

by Javier Sierra



Although not yet a household name in the United States, Javier
Sierra is extremely well-known in other countries. This is due in
part to three nonfiction books and four European bestsellers, of
which THE SECRET SUPPER is the latest. Its publication is
benefiting from some well-deserved word-of-mouth publicity and will
no doubt receive additional scrutiny as the result of the
controversy surrounding the release of the so-called "Judas
Bible."

THE SECRET SUPPER is characterized by its foundation, which
consists of Sierra's careful, almost obsessive, research concerning
the painting of The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. There have
been many works of fiction over the past few years that have had as
their basis --- in whole or in part --- the works of da Vinci.
Unlike most of them, however, THE SECRET SUPPER takes place
entirely in the past, specifically in the late 15th century, and
features da Vinci as a central --- if enigmatic --- character of
the piece.

The narrative is set forth primarily from the viewpoint of Friar
Agostino Leyre of the Order of St. Dominic and an instrument of the
Spanish Inquisition. Leyre is dispatched to Milan after Church
officials receive a number of enigmatic messages from a mysterious
individual calling himself "The Soothsayer," who reports that the
painting of The Last Supper being created by da Vinci contains
symbols and clues that have special meaning to a group of heretics
previously thought to have been exterminated. Leyre is confronted
with several mysteries upon his arrival in Milan, including the
identity of The Soothsayer and determining if da Vinci is actually
purporting heresy or having a bit of fun at the expense of the
Church --- or both.

A series of murders in Milan that seem to center on the painting
have Leyre perplexed as well. Motivations are always suspect and
trust is a fragile thing, as he attempts to divine the secrets of
the painting. Meanwhile, his own faith --- along with all that it
represents --- is being called into question.

 

THE SECRET SUPPER is written very much in the European style, with
Sierra's unhurried narrative taking its time, soaking up historical
ambience, atmosphere and mystery, and slowly spooning it out to the
reading audience.

While Sierra is aware and respectful of history's role, he does not
get bogged down in it, and as a result his descriptions (both
implicit and explicit) of his surroundings are first-rate.
Additionally, Sierra provides a Cast of Characters at the end of
the book, an invaluable aid to the reader in keeping track of who's
who.

With a novel as good as THE SECRET SUPPER, readers will be wanting
second portions. Any chance of those other Sierra novels being
published on these shores?

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011

The Secret Supper
by Javier Sierra

  • Publication Date: March 20, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • ISBN-10: 0743287657
  • ISBN-13: 9780743287654