Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Trinity Game by, Sean Chercover

Daniel Byrne didn't notice the boy with the gun until they were standing face-to-face, six feet from each other in the quiet alley behind the fruit stand.

Father Daniel Byrne works for the Office of the Devils Advocate - the Vatican's department for dealing with miracle claims. His latest case requires him to debunk American televangelist Tim Trinity, an obvious con man, who apparently has the gift of tongues. When his act is played backwards and slowed down, Trinity seems to be predicting future events with a 100% success rate. Daniel is perfect for the job. He's quick, efficient, and hasn't certified a miracle yet. Not to mention the fact that he's Tim Trinity's nephew.

The Trinity Game is a departure from Chercover's Ray Dudgeon series, with completely new characters and new locations. What's not new is Chercover's ability to spin a gripping yarn. The novel is expertly plotted and moves at a rapid pace.

Daniel Byrne is a strong protagonist whose actions are believeable. When it comes to these globe-hopping thrillers with an everyman thrown into the deep end, it's sometimes hard to believe that they can perform the stunts required of them. Chercover establishes early on that Byrne is a former Golden Gloves boxer. Throughout the book, Byrne struggles between his faith, his belief in the con man Trinity, and the woman he left behind at age 19 when he joined the priesthood. The Office of the Devil's Advocate is the perfect place for a priest in search of a miracle to affirm his faith.

Because the book's subject matter dealt with religion, I was on guard for backhanded swipes against organized religion and bad caricatures of believers, but the overall treatment of the subject was fair. I did have some problems here and there, including with how incapable a priest (Byrne) was in arguing for faith and how readily he was willing to throw his vows away. Toward the end of the book, Trinity declares "faith without works is dead" (quoting from the book of James) as if it's a new insight and he and Daniel decide that it doesn't matter which god you believe in as long as you do good works for your neighbor (a feel good, if theologically empty, point). There was also a global conspiracy angle between two shadow groups that felt like gliding the lily, but I'm sure that was there to set up future installments of the series.

Overall, The Trinity Game is a solid thriller.

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