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God's Spy    by Juan Gómez-Jurado order for
God's Spy
by Juan Gómez-Jurado
Order:  USA  Can
Plume, 2008 (2007)
Hardcover, Paperback, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

When the pope dies, more than a hundred cardinals from around the world gather at the Vatican to elect a new pope. At the same time, many hundreds of thousands of grieving Roman Catholics flood into Rome, and security problems threaten to overwhelm local law enforcement authorities. Then, in spite of the elaborate security precautions, something horrible happens. Two cardinals - one from Argentina and one from Italy - are found murdered in the 'nastiest way imaginable' in separate incidents - apparently by the same sadistic predator.

Immediately, the Vatican and Italian authorities join forces in an urgent challenge: Prevent any adverse publicity, find the murderer, and put a stop to any further mayhem. Maurizio Pontiero (of the Italian police), Fabio Dante (of the Vatican police), and Paola Dicanti (an Italian forensic psychiatrist) are thrown together in an uncomfortable coalition, and in spite of their differences they know that they must act quickly.

Almost immediately the investigative trio is joined by Father Anthony Fowler, an enigmatic American with a fascinating and questionable past. Then his peremptory announcement about the murderer's identity startles everyone: 'I know who he is.' All the evidence, according to Fowler, points to a former priest known as Victor Karosky. However, even though Fowler claims to know the murderer, the investigators have an insurmountable problem: find a killer - one who can move comfortably within the Roman Catholic environment - and find him while he is moving about undetected in a city overflowing with millions of people.

Then, as the unspeakable carnage and the grisly murders continue, Paola Dicanti - the focal point of Gómez-Jurado's spellbinding thriller - had begun to realize that the solution to the crimes seemed to be connected to the world of pedophilia, a world further complicated by powerful secular political interests and the unfathomed influence of the Catholic church. As Paola had begun to confront the extreme abjection and the grotesque violence in the midst of all that was supposed to be sacred and mysterious, she realized that 'she was letting the case slip through an unguarded part of her soul, poisoning her sense of well-being. She was trying to be as rational as she could, since she knew the way her character reacted. When something got under her skin, dedication turned into obsession.' Paola's obsession, however, may become a very dangerous problem.

God's Spy is a chilling, provocative, and surprising novel. Enriched by compelling characterizations and a powerful (and plausible?) plot, Gómez-Jurado's highly charged story of duplicity, collusion, authority, sin, and murder in the Vatican will leaves readers gasping for breath and hoping that something like this could never happen. And, of course, it couldn't, or could it?

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