Every now and then you need a bit of a historical mystery/thriller to keep you going and when the publicist reached out to me about a review copy of this I was just intrigued enough to give it a go.* This is the third book from this particular group of publicists I’ve said yes to, but the first fiction title.
I was intrigued by Gordonson’s background as an international lawyer, but also slightly concerned that both of his books to date have had religious settings. This isn’t a bad thing (especially having read this one), but it was still a wait a second am I reading propaganda moment when I finally picked up my copy of the book (I wasn’t).
Overall, this was a solid read. It wasn’t the most enthralling historical thriller I’ve read, but it’s also nowhere near the bottom of the heap.
As I’ve had an issue with recently, this book has a split narrative and timeframe. Of the three I’ve read recently this one again was right in the middle. Gordonson did a good job of creating uniquely interesting characters, but unfortunately neither the 16th century set, nor the 21st century set were that memorable for me. It’s been a couple of days and I barely remember any of the characters names. I remember the plot and I definitely remember the creepy gargoyles, but I don’t remember any of the characters names.
The problem for me was with the characters. Not only can I not remember them, but I remember a lot of the interactions and the a lot of the dialogue were awkward. Not in an endearing sort of awkward, just in a “would people really say that” type of awkward. I’m not sure I would say it was stilted, but it definitely verged on stilted at some points. The lack of chemistry between the two main characters in the 21st century, and the weird way the female protagonist interacted with her student (maybe because French was her native language?) bothered me and made it difficult to read occasionally.
All of this being said, Gordonson did a wonderful job of painting the setting. When I was reading the 16th century portion I really felt we were there, I felt the emptiness of the church and the lack of modern amenities. When we were in the 21st century, it mostly felt authentic. The detail and the focus on the architecture was really well written (second architecture book in so little time!).
Recommendation: Overall, as I said, this is a solid read. I think Gordonson has a lot of potential, but also has a lot more work to do in writing realistic readable characters. He thrives in the historical setting and I almost want to read That Boy From Nazareth because it is completely set in the distant past.
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for my honest opinion, no additional goods or money were exchanged.
Opening Line: “The two men were pale from the scene they had just witnessed though as younger men in armor they had seen death many times in battles long ago.”
Closing Line: “‘Hope,’ repeated Father Adams as his fingertips rose to touch the stiff black collar circling his neck. ‘Seculum seculi, Amen.‘” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)