Doctor Ottavia Salina is a “paleographer” working at the Vatican. Relics of the True Cross from across the world have been disappearing, and an obscure religious order is suspected of collecting them. The pope himself has ordered Salina, together with a big shot in the Swiss Guard and a world-renowned archaeologist to get to the bottom of the disappearances. The trio discovers a connection to Dante’s Divine Comedy, and pursuing clues left in the classic text, they pursue the truth across the ancient Christian world. Once in the mode of interpreting Dante as a roadmap to solving seven deadly puzzles, I found the book to become a bit boring. We know they will succeed. The only questions remaining are why the secret cult is gathering the Cross remnants and what motivates Captain Kaspar Glauser-Royst.
There is plenty of payload here, which more than makes up for the thin characters. Dante’s work is viewed in a way quite different from garden-variety literary analysis. Was he really writing a coded message to a select group of the knowledgeable? We learn a fair bit about early church history, and also some of the workings of the Vatican. Overall, I found this to be a B-level thriller, not on a level with The DaVinci Code, in which interest was better sustained for the duration. Still, it was an entertaining, enjoyable read, and would probably make good summer fare.