Sanctus by Simon Toyne
Next up is the first in the Sancti Trilogy by Simon Toyne. I finished reading this on the 23rd June and have finished another four books since, so this review is probably going to be less a ‘review’ and more a list of reasons why you should give this book a go.
(Note to self: get into the habit of reviewing everything I read as soon as I finish it!).
This book bypassed me completely when it was released in 2011 but I recently heard a couple of interviews with the author promoting the third part of the trilogy which came out in April this year, and although he didn’t go into a great amount of detail about the plot, there were enough ‘hooks’ mentioned to get my interest.
Firstly, I love the title. The word ‘Sanctus’ actually means ‘holy’ or ‘holy one’ and The Sanctus is a part of the Catholic Mass. It is such an evocative word to me on so many levels, conjuring up images of crumbling churches and monasteries with candlelight flickering behind stained glass windows. I can just smell the incense and see and hear the robed, hooded Monks singing the Gregorian chant. The cover of my version of the novel captures this perfectly – see above, and check out this link to really set the mood:
Secondly, Simon Toyne’s own story piqued my interest. He is a British writer and Sanctus is his debut novel. In 2007 he decided to quit his job and spend 6 months writing in France to try and fulfil his lifelong ambition to become a writer. He said in the interview I heard that he had no idea whether he was any good, but he knew that if he tried to write alongside his existing career it would never work. It was ‘all or nothing’. Thank goodness he decided to give it a go…
Lastly, the blurb says:
WHAT IS THE SECRET OF SANCTUS?
Liv Adamsen is a New York crime reporter, Kathryn Mann a charity worker. They are very different people, but their fate is bound together by one man’s desperate act.
With the world’s media watching, a robed man has thrown himself from the top of the oldest inhabited place on earth, an ancient citadel in Turkey. For some it’s a sign of great events to come. For Liv and Kathryn it is the start of a race into danger, darkness and the most remarkable secret in the history of humanity.
It is a secret that the fanatical monks in the citadel will kill, torture and break every law, human and divine, to keep hidden…
Wow! What’s not to like? I wanted to know that secret like, NOW and bought the book on my first browse. Not only that but when it arrived I started it pretty much immediately and read most of its 400 pages in a (very rare) marathon four-hour reading stint whilst staying in a hotel overnight.
I won’t lie, Toyne’s story and style are reminiscent of Dan Brown to whom he has been likened in the popular press. I am not a die-hard Dan Brown fan by any means but I have read all of the Langdon series and enjoyed them to varying degrees; I am a bit of a sucker for the whole ‘ancient conspiracy meets modern world’ premise and do enjoy a damn good mystery so in that sense both Brown and Toyne tick a lot of my boxes. If you are not a Brown fan though, don’t let that put you off Sanctus. I have also recently read Dan Brown’s latest Langdon novel, Inferno: (Robert Langdon Book 4) and I can honestly say that Sanctus beats it into a corner. Hands down. No arguments. If the two books were five year-old children, Inferno would be on the naughty step for five minutes. Eye-rolls for Inferno, (approximately) twenty-six; eye-rolls for Sanctus, zero.
There are actually two stories being told here – one through the various Monks in the Citadel (the Sancti) and the other through Liv, Kathryn, Kathryn’s father and her son Gabriel who are working (for their own, personal reasons) to reveal the three thousand year old secret that the Sancti are protecting. I liked both Liv and Kathryn – they are both brave, strong, independent women. Another tick, Mr Toyne.
If you like a meandering, gently-moving novel however then this one is probably not for you. Toyne’s TV background can easily be detected in the pace; there is a LOT going on and I actually caught myself holding my breath at times. Otherwise, there really is something for everyone including gruesome murder, suicide, forensics, technology, history and religion. Even if some of these themes don’t light your fire, none of them should be taken in isolation. Together they work, or at least they did for me.
I can’t talk about this book without touching on the ending. The Sun review I read described it as ‘a load of rubbish’ but did concede that ‘getting there is a good ride’. As soon as I read it, I knew it would be the part of the narrative guaranteed to spark negativity. That said, I would be interested to know how Mr (a slight assumption perhaps, but an accurate one I think) Sun Reviewer would have preferred it to end? In any conspiracy novel of this kind the reader has to be prepared to suspend logic to some extent. How did I feel about it? Intrigued to know how it would be picked back up in the second part of the story and sad. But only sad because it was the end.
I don’t keep many novels these days; I have a pretty good rotation system going on, but those books that make a real impression on me get a permanent spot on my shelf and Sanctus is there to stay.
There are only four books that I’ve read in the last few years that I’ve given 5/5 to and this is one of them. I absolutely loved the ride and didn’t want it to stop. Thank you Mr Toyne. Part two, The Key, arrived this week…