Monday, February 9, 2009

God's Spy

Here we are, once again: an "intriguing" new thriller by Juan Gomez-Jurado that's supposed to be the competition for "The Da Vinci Code". It's sure written in the same vein: murder mystery that leads into the most powerful figures and institutions of Catholicism and their corrupt ways of upholding holiness in the public eye. I wasn't fully able to cast judgement on TDVC because I didn't finish it. I didn't finish it because, as intriguing as the unfolding conspiracy was, Dan Brown had no sort of flair for poetry or style or substance in the writing itself what-so-ever. Rest assured, neither does Mr. Gomez-Jurado.

This particular work takes place entirely in the Vatican (which was a lot bigger than I thought) and starts after the death of John Paul II and a couple of weeks before the Conclave, an event where many priests gather to vote on who will take the seat as earthly head of the Catholic Church. A corpse is found in the Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina. Its eyes are gone, its tongue is cut out and his hands are severed and found nearby. Assigned to the case is Police Inspector Paola Dicanti, one of 20-something qualified profilers in the whole world, and Father Anthony Fowler, an American priest with a dark and brooding past. Together, they track and pursue the serial killer into what maybe a looming conspiracy against the church by head members of it.

I know now what to expect from this particular genre. I'm guessing that, in order for the thrills and plot twists to be truly effective, you have to write the story like it's some sort of researched thesis with tired, plain dialogue and weak descriptions that are easy for your teacher to breeze through and grade. And so, the mystery itself is interesting, but I can't really say I care about any of the characters or have fun reading any writing that doesn't concern the mystery. For instance:
"Hearing Robayra's name in the film dispelled her doubts the way a drunken fart
would blow through five o'clock tea at Buckingham Palace." (pg. 269)
This may have been a stab at some humor in what is for the most part a dramatic intense narrative, and that is fine. I cannot fault the attempt just because I didn't find it funny. But the joke itself was entirely too immature and third-grade slapstick for a book of this tone.
"She shut the door as abruptly as she could, but the man on the other side
wedged his foot in like an encyclopedia salesman with a large family to
support." (pg. 274)
What the hell is this? Yes, yes, I got it, support a large family, urgency, not difficult to understand. It is difficult, however, to take this humorously or seriously or at-all-ously.

There are a few other larger passages that are written badly, some of which are spoilers, but I think the above two quotes drive home the point. The mystery itself is satisfying and intriguing, but if you're looking for a thought-provoking and realistic story with vivid, three-dimensional characters that are realistic and not just technically correct, I'd advise that you avoid this. If you don't care about the writer being all "artsy" and want the story to just hurry up and get to the point, then this novel would be for you.

1 comment:

  1. I actually did finish the Da Vinci Code, but that, as well as the fact that I started it, was due to the fact that I was on vacation and the airline had lost my luggage (and, ironically enough, it was Christmas, so even if I could find a bookstore, it would be closed), so I borrowed it from a traveling companion. And yes, it was about as crappily written a novel as I've read in a long time. So, now, I see there's a whole genre growing out of it, about which I think your words sum up my feelings perfectly, that I cant take it "seriously or at-all-ously"....


Bollocks, what's your bloody take on things then?