Filled with intrigue, mystery, old secrets, and conspiracy, Bonici’s deeply engrossing conspiracy thriller takes reader on an exhilarating journey as the archaeologist Tom Kettering sets on a quest to unravel a dangerous conspiracy involving the sudden disappearance of centuries-old dolichocephalic skulls. The archaeologist Tom Kettering’s discovery of a bizarre shaped skull, similar to those previously exhibited in Valletta’s Archaeological museum, until 1985, when suddenly and without explanation, they were removed from public display and never seen again, forces him to seek expertise of Father Alessandro Tiepolo, a renowned expert and a Jesuit priest. As Tom delves deeper into Malta’s monumental past, he happens upon a surprising link between an astonishing revelation in the Ethiopian Book of Enoch and the ancient pharaohs. With people around Tom dying under mysterious circumstances and Tiepolo’s own personal agenda, Tom’s mission becomes too dangerous. Bonici writes with precision about the changing scenery as characters trudge their way across different landscapes. Fans of fine conspiracy thrillers will appreciate Bonici’s skill at creating a rather accessible story that is jam-packed with usual genre tropes such as long-buried mysteries, intricately concealed old secrets, an unsuspecting protagonist finding himself uncovering sinful schemes beneath a polished exterior, elaborate disguises, religious sects, and political intrigue. Tom is a flesh-and-blood, humane character. Despite being plagued by doubt and uncertainty, Tom continues his quest of uncovering the truth about the ancient pharaohs. It’s his resilience, the undying spirit that makes him so appealing. Father Tiepolo is Tom’s polar opposite: assured, confident, and extremely willful. He eschews traditional Jesuit priest’s expectations in his perusal of truth. The bond he shares with Marija is both tender and full of longing, and Bonici’s graceful touch undercut the potential for sappiness and give their relation a rich complexity and depth. The narrative is smoothly paced, and the prose crisp. From the first few pages, the story pulls the reader in, keeping them invested throughout. Early chapters of the book are as beguiling as the final revelations. Bonici’s atmospheric setting— from the sweltering island of Malta and the dreaming spires of Oxford to the burning sands of the Egyptian desert—and the deeply affective insights about people, God, religion, and life in general make this novel a triumph.
Saints and Cynics
Uncovering the Mystery of Malta’s Elongated Skulls
By Chris Bonici
Pub date 8/9/2020
Price £16.95 Paperback, $4.99 Kindle book