Sanctus is a mystery detective novel and the debut of Simon Toyne.
An enigmatic citadel sits atop a steep mountain, overlooking the ancient Turkish city of Ruin. One of the oldest and most secretive inhabited places on earth is about to draw the attention of the world as a symbolic suicide set's off a series of events to uncover a three thousand year-old conspiracy nurtured by blood and lies.
The mystery detective novel was dragged into the 21st century back in 2003 with the release of Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" which received critical commercial success and has since become the best selling English Lanuage novel of this century so far with an estimated 80 million copies sold worldwide. A measure of it's success can be seen with the film adaption starred by none other than Tom Hanks.
Since that book's release there have been countless derivative novels that have all strived to emulate this success. It's therefore an unfortunate fact (or at least the opinion of myself and many others) that The Da Vinci Code happens to be a very badly written piece of drivel that has tainted an otherwise excellent genre for the last 8 years, and it shows that like the music industry you don't always have to have talent to succeed in the literary world.
This also has the unfortunate side effect that novels that fall within this mystery / religious detective genre are measured against and compared to that book. You will not find this here and I urge you dear reader to discount anyone else measuring a book by such an innacurate and warped yardstick.
Ok rant over, ...on with the show.
I do very much enjoy those novels that steep themselves in history, that wrap the story within ancient knowledge and recovered artifacts. I am also an avid student of religion, religious history and folklore and have an almost unquenchable thirst for tales of the grail and King Arthur. I do however find little time to read such novels and more importantly to weed out the true gems from the Da Vinci dros. I am very glad to say that Sanctus is very much the former, a powerful and well written tale that has the distinct voice from someone with experience in the film industry - reading almost like an extended movie script complete with concise and colourful descriptive narrative and a plot that almost feels divided into specific "scenes" (you can almost see the camera wipes between shots).
This is one of those stories that manages to take known (and little known) facts and then weave within them the authors own ideas so much so that you don't know where one stops and the other begins but one that should you strip out anything of a fantastical nature you are still left with a very rewarding thriller.
There is a rich and vibrant tapestry of characters here and a fairly energetic pace that includes well executed action sequences and tight dialog, although the development of the primary characters is a little lacking overall.
The story does also take quite some time to really build momentum and it wasn't until 100 or so pages in that I really got hooked (but hooked I did). Once suitably mesmerised there are enough plot twists and turns to shame even the most extreme of contortionist and the thriller style action should keep even the most sedatory of pulses racing sufficiently. The ending also I feel could have been handled an little better, I know it's intended as the first in the series but often when a story continues over more than one volume the author has difficulty knowing when the first book should end and the next begin and it feels a little like that here.
Overall Sanctus goes some way toward repairing the damage done by "that" novel, it's an intuitive, illustrative and inventive novel that will leave you wanting more.
Written on Saturday 5th March 2011 by Antony.
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