Monday's Book: The Seville Communion by Arturo Perez-Reverte (trans. Sonia Soto) Harvill, pounds 10.99
Monday 13 April 1998
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.
Life & Style blogs
Rugby players risk infectious skin condition by swapping bacteria on shared razors and towels
Jennifer Lawrence nude pictures leaked: Reddit removes 'The Fappening' board dedicated to sharing naked pictures of celebrities
Bulletproof Coffee: is adding butter to your coffee a good way to start the day?
Vogue under fire for 'Big Booty' article
With likes and selfies, the Yes Campaign takes the lead in the Scottish referendum on Facebook
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
£23m Birmingham cycle scheme is attacked by Tory councillor for not catering to the elderly
- 1 Thailand deaths: Pair's bloodied bodies found naked on Koh Tao beach
- 2 Scottish independence: Ireland since 1919 is a lesson for Scotland in what a Yes vote means
- 3 Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
- 4 John Travolta addresses former pilot's gay romance allegations publicly for the first time
- 5 Kanye West stops concert after two fans don't stand up - doesn't realise one is in wheelchair and the other disabled
£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...
£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...
£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...
£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...