Cover Image: The Magdalene Deception

The Magdalene Deception

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Member Reviews

I admit to being a fan of “Vatican secrets” thrillers – the concept of this vast church hiding secrets throughout history is one conspiracy source that’s always fun to speculate about.  From Sean Chercover to Luis Miguel Rocha to Juan Gomez-Jurado to even Dan Brown, I have enjoyed many thrillers set in the Holy See.

So I was really looking forward to “The Magdalene Deception” by Gary McAvoy.  The premise promises to be right up my alley – the Vatican hiding a first-century manuscript that reveals the Resurrection to be untrue (not really a spoiler, since the book description states this up front).  Our two protagonists, a young Jesuit priest, Michael Dominic, and a rich young French reporter, Hana Sinclair, are on a collision course to work together, with a whole host of bad guys are trying to stop them, each for their own reasons.

So the concept is fine, it’s the execution that’s lacking.  

The Cathars are introduced in the prologue, and that history is never really incorporated into the present-day adventure.  Although the bad guys follow and spy on Michael and Hana, they don’t take any action whatsoever until the very end of the book.  The discovery of the manuscript is very run of the mill, and it’s hard to believe that it would have stayed secret for so long, especially with all of the attention that has been paid to Bérenger Saunière and the church in the French village of Rennes-le-Château over the past couple of decades.  The secondary story about Jewish gold lost during the Holocaust (Hana’s main story that she’s pursuing) is never fully explored, and her search for the identities of the French resistance fighters ends very anticlimactically, with no real purpose.  The bad guys are supposed to be evil, but other than one scene they’re pretty humdrum.  The cardinal who supports them is pretty one-dimensional as well.  The will they/won’t they potential romance feels contrived and forced.  And finally, although I hate to say it, “The DaVinci Code” covered most of the same ground, and had a lot more fun doing it.

Actually the best part of the story was when Mr. McAvoy described the day-to-day life inside the Vatican:  the different factions, the Swiss Guards, the archives, the petty rivalries.  One has to remember that this is a place of business, where people go to work, and deal with the office politics and annoyances like any other business.

Mr. McAvoy definitely makes it clear that there will be more to come for these characters.  I hope that as this series moves forward we will have adventures a bit more exciting than this one.

I requested and received a free advanced electronic copy from Literati Editions via NetGalley. Thank you!
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I liked this book. It made me think about everything I have always been told about Jesus and his disciples. The plot was believable, the characters seemed genuine, and it had a brisk pace. This would be a good book for vacation or during a quarantine!
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Michael Dominic, an American Jesuit priest is a well-prepared expert on ancient writings who has been assigned to work at the Vatican in Rome.  His expertise to be used in the categorization of documents stored which have not been classified as of yet. His assignment would have him assigned to the special Vatican secret archives section.  At the same time Hana Sinclair, a reporter for a Paris newspaper and whose family owns a prominent Swiss bank is working on a story about Jewish gold stolen by the Nazis during World War II. Millions of this gold looks as if it was stored in the vaults of the Vatican bank.
     Michael's searches lead him to the discovery of a document that may have been written by Mary Magdalene.  In his investigations to translate and carbon date the document as well as authenticating its source he is thrown together with Hana through her cousin, who is a Swiss Guard. The Swiss guard are especially assigned to guard the Pope and protect the Vatican.  Hana's story causes both her and Michael to also solicit and obtain the expertise of a Jewish writer who has special permission to use the Vatican library for his own investigations.
     Mr. McAvoy in addition to writing a mesmerizing novel provides descriptions of the inside of Vatican City.  His explanations of Michael's expertise in investigating ancient writings and the work of the Church hierarchy are well delineated and indicate a good deal of research into the subject matter. The selection and training of the dedicated Swiss Guard is treated and is the first time that  I have read anything about this unique group.  Michael and Hana develop feelings for each other in the course of their investigations and Gary McAvoy does not shy away from discussing Michael's ambivalent approach to this subject.  
     The ending of the book solves the immediate problems of investigating the document written by Mary Magdalene and handling the transfer of millions in gold bullion  to groups that are seeking to identify and reimburse families that have legitimate claims to it.  It also sets up problems that will require the attention of the protagonists introduced in this novel and have them work together again.
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I loved this book.  I have a weakness for Vatican conspiracy thrillers going way back, but this was enjoyable almost in spite of that.  I read it in a single sitting on a rainy Saturday and I truly had a satisfying day.  What I found particularly appealing were the characters themselves.  The hero was not the usual cardboard action hero, and the quasi-romantic interest was not the normal brainy but clueless female.  The secondary characters were well-drawn and fully fleshed out, each with individuality as well.  The novel had all of the requisite exotic locations and it was clear that the author has been to them.  

Two very teeny tiny minute suggestions which in no way detract from the book.  Why did they take the train for 9 hours when they had a perfectly good private jet?  I know why you made them, plot-wise, but that was the only detail that jarred.  Secondly, the book would benefit from the addition of a few more of the traditional elements of a thriller - some more violence, a hint of boom-boom, some "gee whiz" technology related to said violence, and better descriptions of the 5 star food and drink most of us will only read about.  You nailed the indoor and outdoor scenes.

One final thing....  The end of the book hints at a subsequent installment.  Please, please, please!!!
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This book was absolutely fantastic. The subject matter was clearly well-researched, and the characters compelling, and I like that the author didn't take the "easy way out" as the characters developed their chemistry. The first couple of chapters were slower paced than what you'd find in a typical thriller, but I don't count that as a bad thing. It was clear the author was taking time to shape what the reader needed to know. A slow burn burns just as hot. The action picked up and I kept turning the pages until it was over and I was wanting so much more. There was a hint that the story will continue with the characters, and if that's the case, I will follow along. It's hard not to compare stories like this with those that became so popular, but I found I liked this book far better than Dan Brown's DaVinci Code.
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Secret Vatican manuscripts, what could be better?

If like me you find the concept of secret, mysterious Vatican archives and a long tumultuous religious history, mixed with strong characters and moral dilemmas interesting than this books is for you!! 

This book focuses on father Michael Dominic, an American priest, who is an expert in middle age writings and his new posting as an archivist in the Vatican archives. The book spends a lot of time building on Dominic’s character, which I have to say I quite liked. The moral dilemmas he faces throughout the books felt so real and I felt as if I was sharing those feelings with him. 
In his journey to finding the truth about the manuscript he teams up with Hana Sinclair, who is a journalist investigating her own, what seems at first quite separate, investigation. I find the pairing to work quite well together the family history the author introduces for Hana is extremely interesting and brings the book into more modern history territory looking at WW2. 
Being very interested in WW2 myself I found Hana’s investigation, and the link to the Vatican, just as interesting as the secret manuscript Dominic is chasing after. Which really helped the book to take hold of me! 

I found the book to be quite realistic for books of this genre! Too many times I’ve read similar books where the main character will solve a plethora of codes, riddles and problems that have troubled humanity for centuries, only for the character to solve them in 10 seconds. It’s just farcical and really happens all to quickly. 
In this book however the author builds the tension with discoveries coming at a much slower pace. Dominic has to either wait for resources or speak to a contact before he can move on and I find this so refreshing! It reminds you that Dominic is only human and can only do so much! It bought me a lot closer to Dominic, I felt the frustration of being so close yet so far away, I felt the impatience and anticipation and it made me connect to the characters that much more! 
Too many times I’ve been rushed through a series of discoveries only to feel like they were pointless hurdles for the characters to jump through! 
For me this is the books greatest strength, the time spent developing the characters whilst also letting me go on the journey with them in a way which made it very hard for me to stop reading! 

There is only one thing that I could criticise the book for and that is the way the character building occurs. For me I found the background information on the characters was given separately to the story rather than being rippled through the story. But this did little to curb my enthusiasm and I thoroughly enjoyed this book!

From the amount of time spend developing the characters and little clues given in this book a sequel may be on the cards, and if it is it would definitely be on my must read list!!  

I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
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