For The Cross and The Sword

Review of God’s Spy; Juan Gómez-Jurado; pp 358

– Shana Susan Ninan

There are books that make you happy; and there are books that make you sad. Then there are books, by the time you reach the last page, makes you happy and sad! Juan Gómez-Jurado’s debut novel, God’s Spy, translated into English from Spanish by James Graham, is one such book. When I was reading the last two paragraphs of the book, I was sad that such a brilliantly-plotted book was over! But I was also happy at how brilliantly the book was plotted. It is set in the Vatican of 2005, while the world was mourning the passing away of Pope John Paul II. If that was not enough, a cardinal ends up brutally mutilated and murdered in the middle of the holiest countries in the world, right inside a cathedral.

A paedophile serial killer priest is lurking in the shadows of the Vatican, savouring his each kill. The day of the Conclave is nearing and lives of the holy men are at stake. Quantico-trained 33-year-old Rome police detective and criminal psychologist, Paola Dicanti heads the investigation. She’s joined by the enigmatic Father Fowler, a priest with CIA connections and a past that he himself hasn’t come to terms with. Together they race around the city reading the killer’s ritual in an effort to stop the murders, only to find that they’ve been reading him wrong right from the start.

In the middle of all this, Fowler spills the beans about the dreaded Holy Alliance, or the Santa Allianza, thought to be out of function, to Dicanti. As their chase takes them quite close to Karosky, both of them are relieved from the case. Dicanti still goes after the killer, minus her badge and service revolver, to avenge the murder of her friend and co-worker, Ponteiro, at the hands of this lunatic monster. Fowler, though was on his way back to the US, makes a quick slip to assist her capture Karosky. After all, Fowler, a psychologist, had ‘advised’ medications and procedures for Karosky while he was admitted to Saint Matthews Institute in the US. A replica of the real life rehabilitation centre for priests who’re sex-offenders and paedophiles. The duo race against time and the guarded Santa Allianza to give finishing touches to their case.

Jurado, with his background in radio and television journalism, crafts the ‘bestest’ characters and scenes. The importance of sounds and sights is well-established in this mystery novel. Some scenes feel almost straight out of a TV criminal series. Believe me; you sometimes forget to breathe, even! There are two pages of chase where Dicanti, Fowler and Dante are after Karosky down a narrow service stair and along corridors. By the time the detectives fling open a door and stand still to catch their breaths, I found I was doing the same. I felt as though I’d run with them! Now, that’s what I call a superbly-crafted book. If you like edge-of-the-seat thrillers, this is yours to read. The pace is excruciatingly addictive.

The author’s research is too good. On his website, in an interview, he’s mentioned that he wrote the book in 2003, while Pope John John Paul II was much alive and breathing. In 2005, when his book was in the process of editing, he switched on the TV to the shocking news of the death of one of the characters in his book. With some push from his wife, Jurado – residing in Spain – left for Rome, the scene of action. There, he saw the scenes in real life unfolding in front of his eyes: the drama that surrounds the church and its highest protectors, the mourners and over two million pilgrims in St Peter’s Square, and of course, the chaos that can result from a combination of all of the above.

Jurado’s keen eye has taken in all of this and more, and he returned to Spain a happier man, with a better novel under his arm. This isn’t one of your traditional mystery novels where you wonder who the killer is until the end of the book, Instead, by mentioning the killer’s name – Victor Karosky – in the very second line of the book, is about why the killer is so and what his real motive is.

Warning: if you have any pending and urgent work, do not read this book. Finish your work first, ‘cos once you start, you won’t put the book down till its over.

VN:F [1.9.20_1166]
Rating: 5.0/10 (2 votes cast)
For The Cross and The Sword, 5.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings

enjoyed this post? share with others:

twitter stumble upon digg

This entry was posted on Friday, December 17th, 2010 at 2:46 pm and is filed under Crime, Fiction, Mystery. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.


  1. December 17th, 2010 | Faraaz says:

    Brilliant review, Shana. Will pick up this book soon!

leave a comment