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Sanctus    by Simon Toyne order for
by Simon Toyne
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HarperCollins, 2011 (2011)
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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Though Simon Toyne's debut novel Sanctus (the first in a planned trilogy) in many ways follows the Da Vinci Code formula (with plenty of action, cryptic messages to be decoded, and straining credibility at every turn), I loved the premise on which it is based (which you'll have to read the book for yourself to discover).

There is the obligatory (and uber powerful) religious organization, monks who inhabit the Citadel, that looms over the city of Ruin in Turkey. They send violent henchmen into the world to eliminate threats. There are good guys, descendants of the ancient tribe of Mala, underdogs who have been working against the Sancti for centuries. And there is the innocent American abroad, reporter Liv Adamsen, who's caught up in it all.

It begins with a monk who has been searching for a lifetime, but who has learned a terrible secret and now questions, 'Where was God in this?' Imprisoned, he escapes upward, climbing to a mountain peak above the Citadel. From there, Brother Samuel makes a final statement, falling to his death on the flagstones far below, hoping 'to shine light into this dark mountain and bring an end to what he had witnessed.'

Everyone wonders, who is this monk? The Sancti work to recover his body from the morgue and keep their secrets. Kathryn Mann, her father Oscar, and son Gabriel (all of the Mala) work to help fulfill an ancient prophecy. And Liv (contacted through the phone number found on the body) learns that the monk was her long lost twin brother Sam, and flies to Turkey to find out what happened to him and why.

If you like fast-paced, mystical, over the top adventure, you won't go wrong with Sanctus - and can then look forward to two more in the trilogy. I'm curious to see where Simon Toyne will take his story next.

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