The Opus Dictum by Gary McAvoy

I start this review with an apology to the author. Gary McAvoy sent me an ARC of his new novel, The Opus Dictum, some time ago. I promised him a review in good time, but circumstances and other commitments got the better of me and so I was not able to review it in time for its publication on New Year’s Day. I hope he forgives me.

I discovered McAvoy’s books early last year via Kindle Unlimited and because I was a fan of Dan Brown before he went slightly awry, I immediately picked up the first novel in his Vatican Secret Archive Series, The Magdalene Deception. I quickly followed up with the other two books of this particular trilogy. I read them greedily. They are quick, entertaining, and well-researched thrillers set in and around the Vatican City. McAvoy swiftly followed up with another set of fast-paced and equally as enthralling books featuring the same characters more or less. The latest, as I’ve said, is The Opus Dictum.

Father Michael Dominic is in charge of the Vatican Secret Archives. A young priest from the United States, he’s part of an inner circle of elite archivists who catalogue and protect documents pertaining to the history of the Catholic Church going back centuries. Many of these documents will never see the light of day, sometimes because they portray the Church in a bad light, or other times because they are so historically sensitive, they are in danger of being stolen and used for nefarious means. Dominic and his team, crusading journalist Hana Sinclair, her partner Marco Picard, and Karl and Lukas, the Swiss Guards, oftentimes find themselves at odds with forces from within and without the Vatican. And no more so than this exciting instalment.

Roberto Calvi, dubbed “God’s Banker”, was found dead in June 1982, his body hanging from the scaffolding beneath Blackfriar’s Bridge in London, The mystery of his death was never solved, despite being classed as a murder when initial investigations thought he committed suicide. Gary McAvoy uses this historical event as the jump-off point for The Opus Dictum. He imagines a conspiracy between a now defunct Italian right-wing organisation called Propaganda Due and a fictional Catholic prelature called Opus Deus. The eagle-eyed among you will see a named similarity with another Church-run organisation, one Dan Brown was particularly fond of in The Da Vinci Code. McAvoy states that Opus Deus bears no resemblance to the one that runs today. Anyway, none of this takes away from the fun to be had in these pages.

Like its predecessors, The Opus Dictum takes its characters and readers, of which I hope there will be many, on a high-flying trip around Rome and other European countries. Father Dominic is in possession of briefcase that belonged to Roberto Calvi. Within this briefcase are details that will blow the Church wide open. We are all aware of the reforms Pope Francis has been trying to make with regards to the Vatican’s financial transparency. There are those who thing Pope John Paul I was murdered because he got too close to the truth (see The Godfather Part 3 for more on this), but realistically the truth is always more banal. Rich people around the world, including governments, continually make huge donations to Peter’s Pence, the pope’s slush fund; they do this for favours and to influence papal policies. We know our present pope isn’t about this life, but back to the book. Propaganda Due and Opus Deus are attempting to influence who might be the next pope in order to bring about church that is closer to their own right-wing ideals. It’s up to Dominic and his team to stop a cadre of individuals who will stop at nothing to gain power.

I’m a huge fan of these characters and I’ve yet to come away from McAvoy’s books with anything less than satisfaction. The Opus Dictum is the author’s best book yet and I hope he continues this grain of form with his next book. I eagerly await it.

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