Buck, Simon - 'Library of the Soul'
Simon Buck's book first published novel LIBRARY OF THE SOUL was an exciting easy read, and I enjoyed the novel immensely with a couple of reservations.
I must say that I loved the whole concept of the Vatican secret service, and the secret library as a very welcome "Da Vinci Code" antidote. The book's cover art is superb and so evocative of Rome and the Vatican. I remember what a great boost to one's self esteem it is to be saluted by the Swiss Guard.
Simon has brought his considerable knowledge of computers and financial security systems to the novel, and while it was fascinating I am afraid it was a bit too technical for an old brain to understand. I am sure more computer literate readers will enjoy all the high technology wizardry and information.
While on a visit to Rome computer expert Peter White is recruited by his very beautiful friend Costanza D'Andrea-Mancini, a member of the secret Society of Thomas, to help solve a mystery. Cardinals and clerics in Sao Paulo, Boston and Rome have died from unexpected heart attacks. The various police forces have ignored the events because there is no evidence of foul play. But apparently the CIA have for many years been using a poison designed to cause heart attacks which then disperses without a trace, and perhaps a batch has gone missing?
Costanza believes the deaths are connected to an on-line betting website where electronic cash is wagered on the deaths of celebrities. Situated beneath the Vatican Library is a massive supercomputer, Peter and Costanza plan to use this to set an electronic trap for the perpetrators, because they believe the ultimate victim of the plot is the Pope.
Meanwhile the New American Century, an ultra right wing Christian fundamentalist group, are planning to obtain the 2000 year old document, whose public release will destroy that "anti-Christ and scarlet whore of Babylon", the Catholic church. The action switches over a period of several days between Rome, Langley VA (CIA HQ), Cheltenham (British GCHQ), Capri, Naples, New York and the Vatican. The story involves blond assassins, hidden computer disks, terrorist plots, investigative journalists, and secret agents from two continents.
This was fun reading if you did not take it all too seriously, and I have to admit that it was a real page turner.
But there was a change of style and tone in the later part of the book that seemed false and contrived. For instance even though Sandro, the pregnant Costanza's husband, and real true love, is being held captive by murderous right wing terrorists, Costanza spends time discussing her gaping dressing gown with Peter. There were other passages that I felt had been written to "sex up" the story in an unnecessary fashion. The writing became a little more anti-American, and I found one line of the plot development rather unbelievable, until I remembered Waco. That tragic event occurred of course during the Clinton presidency, with Janet Reno as Attorney General.
I think Simon would have benefited from a stricter editor who would have probably altered that particular plot line, and tied up a few of the loose ends.
It will be very interesting to see how Simon Buck tackles his next book, and frankly I am really looking forward to reading the next Peter White mystery.
Norman Price, England