Monday's Book: The Seville Communion by Arturo Perez-Reverte (trans. Sonia Soto) Harvill, pounds 10.99

Is nothing sacred? A hacker codenamed Vespers has penetrated the sophisticated security system of the Vatican and left a message on the Pope's personal computer. It begs the world's most powerful monarch to intervene to prevent the threatened demolition of Our Lady of Tears, a dilapidated Baroque church in Seville. Vespers claims the church has started to protect itself by killing those that threaten its existence. Orders filter through the hierarchy to Father Lorenzo Quart, elegant trouble- shooter of the Vatican Information Service, who is despatched to Seville to report.

The church, Quart discovers, is already doomed. An unholy alliance between the archbishop and a land-hungry bank has long since settled its fate. The vice-chairman of the bank, a dashing, designer-suited piranha, has delegated the resolution of minor problems to Seville's criminal fraternity. All that stands in the way of the church's destruction are an uncouth little parish priest and his curate, a widowed duchess and her beautiful daughter, an American nun, a dwindling congregation and - well, maybe - the church itself.

But who is Vespers? Were the two deaths in the church as accidental as the police believe? This is Seville, and even the questions are less straightforward than they seem. Hot, old and beautiful, the city is full of ghosts. Quart is haunted by his predecessors as Papal hard men, the crusading Knights Templar, and by unfinished business in his own past. And there's the duchess's long-dead aunt, a woman whom love drove mad and whose correspondence finds its way, a century later, to Quart's hotel room.

Nor are Quart's flesh-and-blood problems any easier to handle. The archbishop dislikes him. The old priest is obdurate, and the curate violent. Quart needs all his self-discipline to cope with the disturbing allure of the duchess's daughter, who is also, as it happens, the estranged wife of the predatory banker.

Quart is followed by a bogus lawyer, a retired bullfighter and an alcoholic flamenco singer. As the plot twists through the labyrinthine streets of Seville, he becomes increasingly uncertain which mystery he is attempting to solve. The real enigmas lie within: the dark secrets of his own heart and the nature of faith in the modern world.

Classy and brimming with panache, The Seville Communion is much more than a witty, well-constructed entertainment, just as Quart is no ordinary detective but a sexy soldier of Christ armed with a gold card and a laptop computer. As The Flanders Panel and The Dumas Club have already shown, Perez-Reverte has a refreshing ability to escape from the formulae of crime fiction without sacrificing the genre's reader-friendly virtues. He uses this crime novel to launch an ambitious investigation which is as much metaphysical and theological as forensic. Yet he always plays by rules: only in the very last sentence do we learn the identity of the murderer.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

    Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

    £90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

    Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

    £96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

    Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

    £32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee