Jon Trace’s previous novel “The Venice Conspiracy” got a definite thumbs up from me when I read it last year and just missed out on my Top 10 of the year. I thought it offered something a little different in the adventure genre and was the perfect blend of Dan Brown-type thriller and police procedural.
I don’t feel that this was quite as successful. It feels more formulaic and lacks that spark of originality I enjoyed so much last time. Ex Priest Tom Shaman is back and in “Venice” I found him a fascinating character. This time he is more of a sidekick for main character Valentina Morassi. Between them these two characters managed to unravel The Venice Conspiracy and Morassi has now been promoted to Captain in the Carabinieri and transferred to Rome. Last time the sexual chemistry between the two was unrealised. Meeting up together at the start of this they soon sort that out.
I think the main difference is that Trace has overcomplicated the plot this time and “Adventure Novel Pitfall Alert” has laden it with just too much in the way of ancient sects, symbolism , ritual and hidden texts so the adventure becomes blurred and the plot slows down. A severed hand is found near La Bocca Della Verite recalling a ritual where a liar’s hand placed within would be chopped off by the gods. A blood covered woman with both hands intact and a sword is found nearby. The woman suffers from multiple personalities disorder one of whom is the ancient prophet Cassandra. A body of a eunuch turns up and Morassi and Shaman are plunged into connecting all this together and discover what has happened to the woman to cause her to live in abject terror.
The relationship between Shaman and Morassi is a little too much too soon. Morassi struggles with sexism in the workplace and wants to be seen as her own woman yet quickly has Shaman tagging along. It’s the police procedural side that is not as prevelant in this. The main characters are soon going it alone and the action climax moves very much into Indiana Jones territory and for me does not work as well. Nevertheless, this is still an enjoyable read.
Jon Trace is a pseudonym for one very busy man, Michael Morley, senior executive of Endemol Television and a documentary producer. He also writes in a similar genre as Sam Christer and since the publication of this has written crime novels including “Spree” (serialised over 5 e-books)under his own name. He has not so far published anything else as Jon Trace so I am not sure if this is the end of the line for Tom Shaman.
The Rome Prophecy was published in 2011 by Sphere books.