Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin
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If “Dan Brown” were a genre, Sanctus would be the latest novel falling into its category. It falls right in with the formulaic set-up of a religious, conspiracy theory-laced thriller, filled with murdering monks and just a tad (or at this point, a mere hint at) romance. Sanctus may be following a script made popular with The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, but it has a supernatural twist that also makes it lean its binding towards the shelves of science-fiction. This departure from the realm of purely probable into possibly unearthly kept me churning through chapters as if I were a maiden making butter.
Sanctus opens with a monk from an ancient religious fortress, The Citadel, in the fictional Turkish city of Ruin, taking his own life in a fashion meant to make the world collectively turn its head and look. There is no doubt that he wants to get a message across to those living outside the cloistered life of the mountainous caves he has called home for the previous eight years, but the contents of that message are not easily decipherable.
The leaders of the secretive society are none-to-happy with his “sacrifice” and will do anything to keep the details of their order, and the ancient Sacrament which they protect, a secret. This means dispatching some of their brethren on missions to rid the world of anyone one who has any knowledge of or previous contact Brother Samuel. It also means getting his broken body back from the secular morgue which could possibly learn too much from the sacred scars and brands scattered across his remains. The cloistered sect will stop at nothing to keep their secrets their own.
On the other side of the game, we find a long-lost sister with a connection that is more than just that of a sibling, an entire group, the Mala, dedicated to breaching the walls of The Citadel and forcing the knowledge of the Sacrament into the open, as well as a low-level investigator who is getting more than he bargained for when the case of a suicidal monk landed on his desk.
Simon Toyne’s book touts itself as the first in a trilogy with the second in the series is set to make its debut on April 12, just a few short weeks away. After completing the first book in the span of just a few days, I will definitely pick this next one up and give it a go. These Dan Brown-ish books aren’t known for their great literary prowess or the depth of their characters, but the intrigued weaved throughout the first book has drawn me in and I am ready to fly through the pages of The Key to hopefully find out where the chain of events that started with the revelation of the Sacrament will end up. Simon Toyne’s religious, slightly sci-fi, conspiracy theory thriller earns: