I’m a big fan of Gary McAvoy as a writer; his style is tremendous: intelligent, articulate, conscientious, hardworking and incredibly knowledgeable – and that is just to start. He possesses that rare thing which separates a wonderful writer from a wonderful author: a meticulous researcher, whose books are intended for an equally intelligent, discerning reader, who appreciates the better things.
I believe this is the fourth I have read in this series, with its familiar characters, clearly now much beloved by their creator, and I was fortunate enough to read them in exactly the order they should be; this would certainly be my first piece of advice for any reader looking to pick up this book as a standalone, or dip into Gary’s books on a whim: the series must be read in order. Without reading its predecessors there is a great deal in this book which will make little sense – and, to change the tone to a more critical one, that is perhaps the last thing it needs, because to tell the truth it is already quite complicated and somewhat convoluted, with a large cast of supporting characters and new strands being continually added.
If I am being honest, it is not my favourite in the series, despite the particularly engaging mystery of Roberto Calvi, found murdered in London in 1982, a case with which I was already acquainted. Although fully in possession of Gary’s usual outstanding qualities, this instalment was a particularly wordy one, which may have made it feel longer at times than it actually is. However, it is fair to say that it picks up pace dramatically in the action-packed final third. This author loves his formula, and it works for him; this is another application of the same: an intelligent group of characters, with varied and complementary skillsets and aptitudes, solving a Vatican-implicated crime puzzle. If truth be told, the mystery aspect of The Opus Dictum is a little less slick than previous titles, relying less on clever riddling, and repeatedly on fortuitous guesswork and superhuman intuition, which may feel a little implausible at times. To be brutal, the unlimited knowledge of this small band of sleuths infuriated a little on occasion, to such an extent where there were moments I found myself actually rooting for the bad guys, with their flawed, less than spotless virtue.
I really like Gary’s action sequences and I look forward to them, anticipating them almost as a trademark of his work, with their Clancy-esque authenticity of special operative combat techniques. As always, he shows discipline not to overdo the action, by way of keeping his subject matter and genre firmly within the intellectual arena. His attention to detail is formidable in every single area. He makes his research appear innate and effortless, but if there were any doubt how much graft he puts into his writing, he includes a fascinating glossary of the sheer amount of research work involved.
If you haven’t read Gary McAvoy, I strongly recommend it; he is a rare writer indeed.
In : Book Reviews
Tags: gary-mcavoy thriller vatican fiction suspense mystery mafia church