Gary McAvoy is back, again doing what he does best. Now half a dozen or so books into the series, all of which I believe I’ve had the good fortune to read and review, a very clear pattern and formula is well established: Gary’s obviously beloved group of characters tick all the boxes to be just in the right place and time to deal with another theology-based threat to the religious order, and maybe much more besides. The formula is much the same in all of these books, and The Avignon Affair is no different: a Vatican archivist learns of a centuries old secret, which portends action and suspense in the modern day. As usual, the real star of the book is McAvoy’s work ethic; I can truly say that I have rarely, if ever, read an author who takes their research so seriously and meticulously – he is a masterclass tutor for history-based fiction authors.
This addition to the series, whilst every bit as gripping and suspenseful as its predecessors, is perhaps a touch more far-fetched than some of the previous offerings; the stakes this time around are no less than usurping of the French throne and the threat of civil war. As usual, it is left to our intrepid, intelligent, hugely connected (and hugely privileged) band of sleuths, clerics, soldiers and journalists to save the day. I do wonder, I have to say, how much ground there is in the continuous casting of this core group in books to come, but Gary seems to indicate in the book’s afterword that he is not about to hang up their coats any time soon; he clearly loves living with them, and that’s a good thing. I feel myself that perhaps there may be scope for a little shock or adrenalin shot to the group; perhaps a tragedy or a huge narrative curveball, just to inject a bit of youth back into the series. I won’t spoil anything, but it is a relief to see what appears to be a little closure in the love triangle subplot, which was starting to get a little Ross and Rachel; I do hope that particular strand is put to bed. The stories always conveniently incorporate the whole ensemble in some respect, from the first half background and establishment to the inevitable second-half action. And I don’t say that in complaint; rather the contrary, in fact, it is testament to Gary’s creative structuring that he continues to write books which repeatedly tick all of his boxes, and those of his undoubtedly growing number of fans.
If you like your books intelligent, professionally written, staggeringly well researched and curated, and historically informative, whilst combining ancient theological mystery with contemporary action thriller, you will not find a better writer, and this series will be well and truly up your street. Personally, I feel like a shake-up to the formula would put a cat among the pigeons right now in the series, in a good way, but I also know that Gary is an author who loves what he does – you can see it on every page. And, furthermore, he does it exceptionally well.
In : Book Reviews
Tags: gary-mcavoy thriller vatican fiction suspense mystery theology church