Rating: 5 stars
“Sanctus” by Simon Toyne is a cleverly constructed and extremely suspenseful novel. It’s filled with plenty of very sinister and scary villains — particularly one monstrous monk — and admirable heroes — particularly one fetching and formidable female journalist.
Artfully included is some Dan Brown-ish archaic legendary trivia plus enough twists, turns, half-truths, and tortuous (and torture-filled) roads to traumatic revelations to keep even veteran mystery readers transfixed.
The story begins with the incarceration of a monk. He escapes from his prison inside a mountain, climbs to the mountaintop, forms his own body into the shape of a Tau, the Greek cross-shaped letter “T,” and, once he is sure he has the attention of all the tourists below, throws himself, in fact propels himself, from the mountaintop to his grisly but perfectly and carefully executed suicide on the unforgiving concrete-like surface at the mountain’s base.
The mountain, as it turns out, is the home of the Citadel, an abbey inhabited by a group of very committed monks, a group whose ancestors had founded the institution thousands of years before the advent of the Abrahamic religions. Their religion, however, forms the true basis of many of the elements of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and, in fact, bears the secrets which reveal the actual history of the events, unknown to the world, surrounding the dawn of humankind.
The most important secret is called the Sacrament, and only the highest ranking monks within the Citadel know what the secret is. And it is ugly and horrible and eerie and downright disgusting. But the monks have sworn on their lives to protect it, even if that protection necessitates the destruction (along with the requisite torture) of any and all who try to expose it. These are bad guys.
Into this not very pretty picture walks the heroine of the piece, Liv Adamsen, sister (it seems) of the monk who had purposely and purposefully dived to his death. She will ultimately come to represent the greatest single threat to the Citadel and the Sacrament.
And that is all it is fair to reveal. But hold on tight to your seat. This is one heck of a roller-coaster ride up, down, and around that mountain.
Visit Simon Toyne’s website to learn about the sequel, “The Key.” (JK)
Please note: This book is based on the paperback book provided by the publisher, William Morrow, for review purposes.