I’m happy it’s over.
God’s Spy, a thriller that has averaged well on Goodreads, had a promising plot:
In the days following the Pope’s death, a cardinal is found brutally murdered in a chapel in Rome, his eyes gouged and his hands cut off. Called in for the grisly case, police inspector Paola Dicanti learns that another cardinal was recently found dead; he had also been tortured. Desperate to find the killer before another victim dies, Paola’s investigation is soon joined by Father Anthony Fowler, an American priest and former Army intelligence officer examining sexual abuse in the Church, who knows far more about the killer than Paola could possibly imagine.
As Paola and Father Anthony struggle through a maze of tantalizing clues, they begin to question whether someone in the Vatican is aiding their cause or abetting a murderer. And when evidence leads them to powerful figures within the Church hierarchy, their own pursuit of the truth may make them the next pawns to be sacrificed in a terrifying and deadly game.
I suppose I should have felt warned. Gouged eyes, torture, hands cut off… indeed the details of each murder scene left little to the imagination. What originally intrigued me was Paola Dicanti. I had guessed that she would be a formidable protagonist, with such a remarkable skill set. Touted as a gifted criminal profiler, she was to provide details of the killer that would facilitate his capture. I can say “his,” because his identity was revealed shortly after the book’s start. The story was instantly transformed into a cat-and-mouse chase, as opposed to a mystery.
The “mystery” that was unveiled throughout, however, was the killer’s background. No surprise that anyone who was capable of such atrocities had an unpleasant childhood. (To put it mildly.) The reader is supplied with ample detail of why the killer became a monster; some of which was overdone. The question eventually (and I mean eventually) became: was he acting alone, or was he a soldier of something far more sinister? By the time this reveal was unearthed, I no longer cared. I just wanted out.
Paola Dicanti was a disappointment. While highly intelligent and skilled, she second guessed herself too often. Father Anthony Fowler proved much more interesting, but his back story was offered via tidbits, and in the end I still had questions about his character. The killer was a twisted creature who was so badly damaged by his childhood, his adulthood and his questionable therapy that he was a lost cause right from the start. The surrounding characters were drawn well, but I could not connect to a single one.
Beyond the story’s repeated (and grotesque) violence, I had trouble with the dialogue. It felt forced and predictable, and too often, made the characters appear as though they were simply going through the motions. Even when Paola offered what was supposed to be a heartfelt soliloquy beside her slain partner, the words had a canned quality that I could not overcome. Without beating around the bush, it was terrible. I winced through the entire speech. The plot just could not break through such distractions.
Was the story original? Not exactly. Catholic conspiracies, cover-ups, meddling journalists, questionable cops…. the book has also been described as being written in complete admiration of The Da Vinci Code. For this Hoarder, the novel could have used an enormous dose of originality.
This audiobook was narrated by Kate Reading, and I must say that she did a very good job, considering the material. It could not have been easy to narrate such a story, but I found her voices well suited. Next time, I would very much like to hear her read something pleasant.
2 stars for God’s Spy.