In the tradition of masterworks like Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, Ian Caldwell, coauthor of the international sensation The Rule of Four, returns with an exhilarating intellectual thriller set entirely within Vatican walls.
In 2004, as Pope John Paul’s reign enters its twilight, a mysterious exhibit is under construction at the Vatican Museums. A week before it is scheduled to open, its curator is murdered at a clandestine meeting on the outskirts of Rome. The same night, a violent break-in rocks the home of the curator’s research partner, Father Alex Andreou, a married Greek Catholic priest who lives inside the Vatican with his five-year-old son.
When the papal police fail to identify a suspect in the robbery, Father Alex, desperate to keep his family safe, undertakes his own investigation into both crimes. His only hope of finding the killer is to reconstruct the dead curator’s final secret: what the four Christian gospels—and a little-known, true-to-life fifth gospel named the Diatessaron—reveal about the Church’s most controversial holy relic. But just as he begins to understand the truth about his friend’s death, a secretive tribunal is convened to try the murder—and when Father Alex learns the identity of the accused, he is devastated. Now he must navigate the ancient and perilous legal system of the Catholic Church, which offers no presumption of innocence, no jury, and no right to face one’s accuser. As evidence vanishes and witnesses refuse to testify, Father Alex realizes the system is controlled by someone with vested stakes in the exhibit—someone he must outwit to survive.
Ten years in the writing, and based on painstaking primary research in multiple languages as well as interviews with priests who have worked at the Holy See, Blood and Water is at once a riveting literary thriller, a feast of biblical history and scholarship, and a moving family drama. Rich, authentic, erudite, and compulsively readable, it satisfies on every level.