Monday, May 15, 2006

Book Review: The Last Cato

Enter the next book into an ever growing genre of Catholicism vs. Mysticism. The Last Cato, by Spanish author Matilde Asensi, is a wonderful read, inviting and flowing, it pulls the reader into a world that few will ever see, into the inner workings of the Vatican itself. Murder, mayhem, secret orders, the Vatican, an entire host of tricks and tools in which to snare the reader's attention. This book, originally written in Spanish, was translated by Pamela Carmell into English, and masterfully so I might add.

The story's hero, the brilliant paleographer Dr. Ottavia Salina, is in herself the first stone cast at the Vatican's precious image. Not only a woman, an educated woman at that, she is a nun whose order has stricken the wearing of habits from their code. A fiery start to a very stormy book! Ottavia is paired with an odd Swiss Guard officer in the early pages of the book, to decipher a series of codes that have been scarified onto the body of a strange and un-explained corpse the Vatican has produced. The mystery evolves into a series of revelations that bring up the seven deadly sins, Dante's inferno, and a secret society committing criminal acts against the church itself.

Asensi does an amazing job weaving this tale from a wealth of scholarly Christian knowledge and blending with a whirlwind of world travel and intrigue. The depictions of the inner works of the Catholic Church are in themselves captivating, and the ability to tie in an almost "Tomb Raider" like quality of espionage and adventure make this book a very apt contender with the likes of The Da Vinci Code. Although she has several international best sellers, this is her first book to be translated into English, and the first of many to come I can only hope!

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