Paperback $15.99: Amazon
Catholic priest brutally murdered. An international counterfeiting ring. Centuries-old Vatican secrets.
When veteran police inspector Francesco Morelli is called to an historic Catholic Church in the middle of the night, he finds a priest has been murdered in front of the altar. Riots threaten the city. The inspector’s own superiors and the Catholic Church demand what appears an open and shut case to be closed quickly. However, the cold blooded killer turns out to be a young man with no criminal history and no memory of the foul deed. Raja and Vinny are called to the beautiful city of Venice, Italy to help Inspector Morelli.
WHAT READERS ARE SAYING
“Raja and Vinny travel to Venice to help sort out a heinous crime, and the reader will feel like he’s right there with them. As always, Thompson does a masterful job of building the story’s many elements that lead to a very satisfying conclusion.”
“Great story, intricate plotting, exciting characters and outcomes you won’t expect. I read this one straight through and loved it.”
“Great book. It’s fast-paced with an interesting plot. This is the 6th book in the Raja Williams series. I’ve read all the books in the series with each book getting better and having you look forward to the next one. In my opinion this one is the best so far.“
Venice is a city with a long memory. In its storied history, it had been a thriving center of global commerce, once even laying claim as the capital of the western world. As a generous patron to the arts, Venice holds many priceless Renaissance works within its boundaries. When other empires had overshadowed it, Venice became a welcome sanctuary for those seeking refuge from the rushing tides of conquering armies. As a result, its population is more eclectic than most European cities. However, throughout its millennial lifetime there remained one constant–the Roman Catholic Church. There are 140 churches, some dating back more than a thousand years.
The man hid in the shadow cast by the branches of the solitary laurel tree that hung out over the cobblestone courtyard of Campo San Salvador. It was one of the few trees found anywhere in Venice. Directly across the square stood the San Salvador Church, a 600-year-old church that rose 200 feet above the street, a stone and marble testament to the Catholic faith that has comforted so many thousands of the city’s citizens down through the centuries. Being nearly midnight the square was deserted, the last of the faithful having departed long ago.
The man pulled his woolen cloak tighter around him and stepped into the light from the dim street lamp mounted on the wall above. A crescent moon hung silently overhead in the dark night sky, adding an eerie blue tint to the hazy illumination in the square. His face hidden by the cloak’s hood, the grey phantom floated across the courtyard stones and up the steps to the heavy wooden doors of the ancient church. He paused, steeling himself for the task that lay beyond.
When the man pulled the wrought iron handles apart the immense doors swung open easily, just as they were counterweighted to do. He paused again on the threshold and breathed deeply, recognizing the familiar scents of frankincense, myrrh and candle wax that tickled his nostrils and sent an unexpected pang of guilt straight into his heart. For a fleeting moment the pictures of his own days as an altar boy flooded his mind. Yet as quickly as they appeared he was able to cast them aside with a cold detachment that was oddly comforting. He calmly focused on his target. The priest at the far end of the hall was walking along a bank of votive candles. One by one, the priest lowered an ornate silver extinguisher over each candle, snuffing out the flame as he said a brief prayer.
The man glided slowly down the center aisle of the church, making no sound as he walked on the polished inlaid red, black and ivory marble floor. He was in no hurry, these being the last steps he would take in this life. The priest continued his nightly duties unaware of the man, methodically extinguishing the many candles lit by parishioners hoping a merciful God would answer their individual prayers. Now it was midnight and their time was up, whether answered or not.
As the man approached, the statue of Jesus on the cross that stood beside the altar grew taller with every step he took, until the solemn unflinching face was all he could see. The priest, on the other hand, seemed to shrink with every step, and for a feverish moment the man imagined that the priest would simply disappear to nothing, making his mission unnecessary.
When he reached the sanctuary, the illusion evaporated and the man saw that the priest was actually an inch or two taller than he was, a large man who looked even bigger in his vestments.
While reaching one hand under his cloak, the man placed his other hand on the priest’s shoulder. Before the priest could move, the man pulled out a dagger and quickly thrust the long, thin blade forward. The razor-sharp blade slipped softly between two ribs and the priest felt only a small pinch in his back that reminded him of a nasty bee sting he had gotten as a boy. When the tip punctured the priest’s heart, a flick of the man’s wrist did the damage that would make death quick and merciful.
“Forgive me father, for I have sinned,” said the man, removing the blade and returning it under his cloak.
The priest stiffened for a moment and then began to slump into the arms of his assailant. After laying the priest gently on the ground, the man knelt next to him and said a prayer, crossing himself at the end. He dipped the tip of his finger in the blood that was spreading on the floor and made a small red cross first on the priest’s forehead, and then on his own.
The man stood, looked up at the doleful face of Jesus and removed the dagger from his cloak once more. As he raised it with both hands above his head and prepared to plunge it into his own chest, a gunshot echoed through the cavernous room and a bullet ripped into the man’s back. The impact loosened his grip and the dagger fell from his hands, clattering on the stone floor. Frightened by the realization that he would be unable to complete his final task, the man clutched a hand over the hole in his chest where the bullet had exited, screamed and fell forward onto the body of the now dead priest.
Paperback $15.99: Amazon