|Publisher||Accent Press Ltd|
|Date Published||12 November 2013|
Jimmy Costello, a corrupt ex-Met detective, and now a ‘fixer’ for the Vatican, is sent to Spain to check a story that a senior cleric is involved with the Basque terrorist movement. The man he must talk to is killed and Jimmy has to solve the mystery – and also deal with some unwelcome reminders of his violent past.
In this fourth adventure, Costello’s attributes have ensured he becomes a ‘fixer’ for the Collegio Principe, an obscure department of the Vatican. Founded by Cesare Borgia, the devious and brutal bastard son of Pope Alexander VI, the Collegio is tasked with studying the relationship between religion, politics and power. In fact, its job is to bury major scandals.
Far-fetched? Think Banco Ambrosio, the ‘suicide’ of Roberto Calvi under Blackfriars Bridge, the alleged links between Vatican banker Cardinal Paul Marcinkus and the Sicilian mafia, the 2012 leak of Vatican documents, the older dramas of connections to the Croatian Nazi killers of the Ustashe, and the murder of the commander of the Pope’s Swiss Guards, Alois Estermann. If the Collegio doesn’t exist, it should.
Costello is tasked to check a story that a senior cleric is deeply involved with the Basque terrorist organisation ETA. The man he is sent to Santander to see is killed before they can speak and Jimmy is determined to discover why. With the help of an attractive English-speaking Spanish detective, he begins to peel away layers of deceit – and uncovers unwelcome links to his violent north London past.
When it becomes even more personal, Costello, acting, for once, totally on the side of the angels, ignores his own orders to ensure justice is done. Even the ending is sublimely in keeping. Never let your left hand know what your right is doing would be a great motto for the Collegio.
Simple story? Yes. Beautifully plotted, realistic modern crime? Yes. Characters, settings and dialogue spot-on and believable? Yes.
Former headmaster James Green is perhaps better known for his ambitious ‘factional’ series on the development of the American intelligence services. The depth of research and clarity of thought and writing that has gone into that series is just as rigorously applied to his Costello books.
Somehow he manages to skip between two such widely different time periods and genres – and if, like me, you’re bored with endless, improbable serial killers and near-pornographic descriptions of drugs, sex and violence, Costello’s occasional humanity, down-to-earth anger, detective ability and sheer normality is a real tonic.
Reviewed 26 June 2014 by John Cleal