Headline | 2017 (15 June for the ebook; 5 October for the Pb) | 448p | Review copy | Buy the book
Angelina Calla is one of those rare things – an expert in the ancient Mesopotamian language of Akkadian. But finding a job in such a rarified field isn’t easy and so Angelina spends her days as a tour guide in Rome. Ben Verdyx, on the other hand, has a job that Angelina craves. He works in the Vatican archives and has access to their most secret and valuable documents and objects. Little connects these two beyond a shared love of history, until the day when gunmen pursue them separately through Rome’s streets. Against all odds, the two are saved thanks to agents of the Vatican Swiss Guard who also want Angelina and Ben in their control, albeit alive.
Angelina and Ben are in demand on all sides. A new Akkadian text has just been discovered. It is an astonishing find. And its text reveals a series of prophecies. The first one has already come true – the death of the person who uncovers it – but more are imminent, threatening the very heart and soul of Rome. Angelina and Ben must uncover the truth about the text before it is too late. And then Rome’s mighty river, the Tiber, runs red…
We’re told that the author Tom Fox is an expert in the history of the Christian Church, an interest which has already been put to good use in his 2015 enigmatic religious thriller Dominus. Although The Seventh Commandment is also set in Rome and is again focused around the Vatican, the two thrillers aren’t connected and so you can enjoy them both in whichever order you please.
As with Dominus, the thriller revolves around a mystery that goes to the heart of the Catholic Church, although its ramifications extend beyond the Vatican and across the city of Rome. This time the mystery focuses on a series of prophecies which the Charismatic Catholic Church in particular is adamant will come true in the next few days revealing the presence of God in our midst. But it’s clear to us all from the beginning of the novel that it’s unlikely God is working alone without human help as a series of astonishing calamities stun the people of Rome.
Although this is less of a religious mystery than Dominus, once again I loved the strong sense of place that Tom Fox evokes. This isn’t the Vatican of Dan Brown. It’s much more business-like and more ‘normal’, despite its wealth. It’s rich but it isn’t sinister. And the baddie’s motivation is also down to earth, albeit elaborate. The beauty and the charisma comes from Rome’s stunning churches and its glorious history, which surrounds this novel and fills it with atmosphere. Tom Fox clearly has a strong love and appreciation for history and, as someone who shares this completely, I love how this influences The Seventh Commandment. The Rome setting is a real bonus.
As with most mystery thrillers, you’ve got to be prepared to accept and believe the unexpected and the unlikely, and some characters are more developed than others. I did find some parts of the novel a little wordy and, while Angelina isn’t as three-dimensional as I’d have hoped, I really liked the villain of the piece, and there is also something unusual and curious about Ben. With The Seventh Commandment, Tom Fox has produced another fine mystery thriller that is both well-written and as intriguing as it is exciting, and its Rome setting is excellent. I look forward to the next!