Book Five: The Seventh Sacrament

sacrcovIt begins on one of Rome’s least-known hills, the Aventino, in the public piazza fronting the mansion of the Knights of Malta. There a curious keyhole to the knights’ estate reveals an astonishing view, a direct line across the Tiber to the dome of St. Peters in the distance.

For seven-year-old Alessio Bramante the act of peeking through the keyhole on his way to school each day is a ritual, a way of establishing a bond with his difficult, distant father, one of Rome’s most famous archaeologists, Giorgio Bramante. Then one day, after an unexpected visit to one of Giorgio’s underground excavations, Alessio disappears.

A group of students who had slipped into the site, an ancient Mithraic temple, attract the blame. A tragedy occurs. Alessio is never found, and it’s his father who goes to jail. Fourteen years later, in an arcane shrine by the Tiber known as the Little Museum of Purgatory, a tee-shirt belonging to Bramante’s son begins to show fresh bloodstains. No one can understand how the marks have appeared behind the glass.

Soon it becomes apparent that the newly-released Giorgio Bramante is bent upon a vicious and terrifying revenge on all those he blames for the loss of his son, and numbers Inspector Leo Falcone, a member of the original investigating team, among his targets. In the depths of the labyrinth he knows better than any man, a distraught father seeks his vengeance against those he hates. Nic Costa, watching Falcone move relentlessly into the man’s deadly grip, realises the answer to the deadly present must lie in solving a cold case that, like the forgotten Alessio Bramante, has long been regarded as dead and buried for good.

What they said

In 2008 The Seventh Sacrament won the new Audible Sounds of Crime prize for the unabridged crime audiobook of the year. The award, which was based on votes from readers, was announced at the Bristol CrimeFest conference. I’m really honoured and flattered to get such a plaudit for the work, and delighted too that I quite rightly share it with Saul Reichlin, right, the series narrator, whose astonishing performance of the books is surely one of the main reasons for their popularity in audio.

Booklist, the American Library Association’s influential magazine… Hewson’s uncompromising trio of antiestablishment Roman cops—Nic Costa, Gianni Peroni, and their boss, Leo Falcone—are back in the Eternal City and up to their necks in another vat of hot water. As with the previous four entries in this always-captivating series, the crime on the front burner—a dead body discovered in a Roman church—is merely the entrée point to a case with tentacles extending deep into ancient history…Hewson keeps his readers securely tethered to a narrative lifeline; like Theseus on the trail of the minotaur, we follow the plot around countless blind corners but never lose our way out of the maze. The interplay between Hewson’s three cops—and between them and the especially rich supporting cast—lift this novel far above the plot-driven Da Vinci Code and its many imitators. A superb mix of history, mystery, and humanity.

I Love A Mystery’s Bob Walch declares… A clever and utterly surprising ending will stun even the most jaded reader. If you are one of those individuals who believe there are very few writers left who can make you sit up and applaud, be forewarned. You’ll be putting your hands together in appreciation of David Hewson!

Publisher’s Weekly says… The intricate fifth thriller from British author Hewson to feature Roman detective Nic Costa (after 2006’s The Lizard’s Bite) artfully weaves several points-of-view as it shifts between past and present. Fourteen years after seven-year-old Alessio Bramante, the son of an eminent archeology professor, disappeared underneath Rome’s ancient Circus Maximus, someone seeking revenge attacks Costa’s colleague, Insp. Leo Falcone, who worked on the unsolved case of the missing boy. Falcone and Costa start asking questions that should have been asked during the original bungled investigation. The subterranean labyrinths just may hold the answers to a mystery whose poignant resolution few readers will anticipate.

From The Times Literary Supplement… There are hints of Dan Brown here, but David Hewson handles the material intelligently and plot and characterization remain the novel’s strengths. Bramante, the anti-hero, has some of the hall marks of Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lecter though without the misplaced comedy. He is a monstrous creation with a terrifying sexual appetite matched only by his murderous cruelty. The policemen, from the new commissario down to the old sergeant on the front desk, are lively and well drawn, as are the three main characters, Costa, Peroni and Falcone, and their love interests.

The Calgary Herald says… Beneath the Vespa-crowded streets of Rome, there are other, much older incarnations of the Eternal City. These older Romes are littered with clues to a mysterious pagan past, clues that can be found in the rubble of middens, roads and religious altars. It is this hidden Rome that fascinates David Hewson. Here, in his fifth book featuring his misfit cops Leo Falcone, Gianni Peroni and Nic Costa, he explores both the secrets that haunt old Rome and the terrible secrets that haunt families. Hewson’s work has been compared to that of Donna Leon and Dan Brown, and it will certainly appeal to fans of both writers. His stories are fresh, original, brightly written and very smart, and his latest book is his best so far. This is definitely among this spring’s must-read crime fictions.

The York PressThe Seventh Sacrament is Yorkshire-born David Hewson’s fifth mystery set in Italy featuring detectives Nic Costa and Gianna Peroni. Back in Rome after their dramatic adventures in Venice, the detectives set about rebuilding their lives. But the sudden appearance of fresh bloodstains on a T-shirt in a local museum soon has the old team back in action again, and it’s not long before they are embroiled in a mystery involving both the ancient cult of Mithras and a sinister ossuary, The House of Bones. If you’re a fan of Dan “Da Vinci Code” Brown you’ll love this.

Reviewing The Evidence … David Hewson can really evoke an Italian atmosphere well – whether the modern city or the frightening underground city. The twists of the story are cleverly done – even when the situation seems obvious he can produce a strange response that can turn the tale on its head. The climax is absolutely shattering.

The Reading Post says… Hewson is a talented writer with the gift of creating a good, old-fashioned page-turning thriller. His characters shine with real depth and conviction and the plot is breathtakingly imaginative. A superb read for crime fans who like their mysteries both ancient and modern.

Woman magazine (Book Club choice) A thrilling tale…with the author’s captivating descriptions of long-forgotten passageways and temples, and his skill in creating a sinister undertone keeping you, hooked from the off. A highly dramatic tale for those who like a sprinkling of culture with their crime thriller. Choice magazine This gripping novel incorporates modern Rome, mysterious happenings in churches and the Roman cult of Mithras. David Hewson has a superb sense of pace and place, his characters feel real, and he writes a page-turner detective story like no other.

The Mystery and Thriller Club (UK) magazine says… The fifth Nic Costa and Gianna Peroni mystery is a devilishly compelling brew of conspiracy, vengeance and murder. Brilliantly entertaining and deftly written, The Seventh Sacrament is a sophisticated and original thriller that cements David Hewson’s burgeoning reputation as one of crime writing’s most exciting talents.