A fast-paced thriller
By Manju Gupta
The Rome Prophecy, Jon Trace, Hachette India, Pp 458 (PB), Rs 299.00
This is a fast-paced religious conspiracy thriller, plunging the reader into centuries past to uncover a sinister movement that operates beneath the beauty, that is, modern-day Rome.
The book opens with Cassandra’s words. Cassandra evokes the name of the ancient Greek priestess who foresaw the end and so it seems to have a suitably ancient theme. The young and beautiful Cassandra is driven through the streets and her hands cut off in the Mouth of Truth as she is accused of treachery. She claims to be on the run from a mighty power that centuries ago brought the eternal city to its knees. As she lies there, losing blood fast and dying, the book cuts to the present where a hand is found at the Bocca della Verita, the Mouth of Truth but with no body. Who does the hand belong to? Where is the body or the person?
What is more, a woman has been found walking the streets dressed in a white robe, covered in blood and carrying an antique sword.
Now we see one of the protagonists, Valentina Morassi, feeling very happy as she had so far been unable to find anything far from positive about herself or her life, following the death of her cousin Antonio in Venice. It had all but broken her. She is Carabinieri’s newest captain who is assigned the case of the chopped hand and she starts to investigate the mystery.
The girl lying on the street appears to have multiple personality disorders. Valentina begins her probe and is aided in investigations by the headstrong psychiatrist Louisa Vendetti, who becomes increasingly involved in the mystery. Ex-priest Tom Shaman also helps Valentina, drawn to Rome by a relationship between them which developed in Venice where they met first after he left priesthood in Los Angeles. Things look good for them but Valentina has been called to work. While the investigation takes twists and turns that keep Valentine on her toes, she has problems with her new boss and her most immediate subordinate. Thus she is beset on all sides.
The book is loaded with action as the investigations carry Valentina and Tom from Gothic plazas through majestic cathedrals and into the vast catacombs beneath Rome with women running it – catacomb that has been running for millennia with supposedly an unbroken chain of women kept prisoners underground in the crypts.
(Hachette India, 612/614 (6th floor), Time Tower, MG Road, Sector 28, Gurgaon-122 001; www.hachetteindia.com)