Written by Jon Trace

Review written by Calum MacLeod

Calum MacLeod is a reporter for the Inverness Courier and had been writing for SHOTS since its early days. In 2009 the Highland and Islands Media Awards' judging panel awarded him “Highly Commended Feature Writer of the Year”.

RRP: £6.99
Released: 3rd February 2011
Pbk Original
With Jon Trace slowly making his bloody way around Italy - "The Rome Prophecy" is the sequel to "The Venice Conspiracy" - so how about some random title selection.

Take your pick of "Milan", "Naples", "Verona", "Palermo" etc, paste each city on a piece of card, toss them in the air and match them with, ooh, let's say "Vendetta", "Assignment", "Secret" - you get the picture. Not, speaking as a lifelong Adam Hall fan, that there is necessarily anything wrong with such titles in themselves, but they do bring the suspicion of thriller writing by numbers. So if you do opt for a title on those lines, you had better be good.

Not that Trace is bad, just maybe not quite good enough to get away with his title choice.

One flaw is his choice of protagonists. Ex-priest Tom Shaman, big as an oak, smart as a don and who punches like a Golden Gloves contender (not to mention being apparently something of a love machine), and lover Carabinieri captain Valentina Morassi, a cop good looking enough to do a Vogue photoshoot, are both a little too good to be true.

Shaman especially, considering he has lost his vocation after killing a couple of gang members in Los Angeles, seems rather too underdeveloped.

Trace could also have kept a  tighter rein on his plot, which sags a bit in the middle, despite a promising start as Valentina is called on to investigate the discovery of a severed hand and the appearance of a beautiful bloodstained amnesiac.

It picks up again at the end as Shaman begins a desperate search through booby-trapped catacombs, but this "Indiana Jones" stuff as Shaman himself calls it, needs a lighter touch to work and doesn't sit well with earlier passages about Valentina's troubles with her sexist colleagues.

Still, it is almost refreshing to find a religious conspiracy thriller where the Catholic Church aren't the bad guys, though in credibility terms it doesn't score any higher than any of Dan Brown's efforts.

This is one to kill a few hours with on a beach or a plane and it'll do the job OK, but can't claim much more than that.
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