**I reviewed THE TRINITY GAME for the Fresh Meat feature at the Criminal Element website. That review can be seen here. It is a focused review and my general review of the overall book is appearing here today.
Daniel Byrne is a Vatican investigator. He investigates claims of miracles, and he's excellent at what he does because he desperately longs to witness an actual miracle--ever since he discovered the con game his uncle was pulling as an evangelist.
Tim Trinity graduated from traveling evangelist to televangelist in the years that he and Daniel have been estranged. He's at the height of his game and he begins speaking in tongues. Trinity is secretly terrified because he simply can't explain what is happening to him. Others are terrified as well when they learn he is making predictions. When his "tongues" are recorded and played backward, he's making predictions about the weather, sports, the lottery.
This of course doesn't sit well with the mob who run book in Las Vegas. And it doesn't sit well with the Vatican. They decide if anyone can figure out his trick, it will be Daniel. So Daniel finds himself full-circle...looking for his faith in the same place he lost it.
Sean Chercover is, of course, the author of the Ray Dudgeon P.I. series. THE TRINITY GAME veers quite a ways away from Dudgeon, but this new canvas allowed Chercover to show us what he's capable of and it's astounding.
To start off, the writing in this novel is stellar. While there are some areas that could probably have been edited down still, they're few and far between, and do nothing to slow the forward momentum of the plot. And when he creates imagery, the reader is entranced. THE TRINITY GAME spans the globe and the reader is taken on a very inexpensive world tour:
"The sky was a solid sheet of blue, the sun white-hot on his face. The air was thick and heavy and smelled of salt and mud. Aside from the soft murmur of moving water, there was no sound. No barking dogs, no chirping birds, no human voices, and no machinery of human civilization. Nothing. Most of the trees on the street were down, and those that stood were stripped of their leaves, naked limbs hanging down like broken arms. There were no power lines, and the poles stood at odd angles, like drunken sentries guarding the abandoned neighborhood. The entire street was a lake, and the muddy water flowed so quickly he thought he could see the level rising as he watched.
So much water."
The imagery isn't limited to geography. Chercover also pulls the reader into the characters with descriptions that oil the gears in the old noggin:
"Giuseppe wore the left sleeve of his jacket folded, the cuff pinned to the outside of the shoulder. This always struck Daniel as strange. Why not just have the sleeve cut and cuffed at the elbow? It was as if Giuseppe were holding out hope that the forearm might suddenly grow back and sprout a new hand. Then he could just let down the sleeve and get on with life."
When I read that paragraph, I had to go back over it several times. It was so vivid and I was transfixed. In a few short sentences I was developing not only a sense of Giuseppe but Daniel as well. And the subtle hint of some humor working its way into the thought. That layering exists throughout every element of the book: character, plot, theme. THE TRINITY GAME is definitely a book to re-read in order to grasp all the nuances Chercover has tucked into the pages.
The use of religion can be a challenge, but Chercover handles it with ease. The over-arching theme is not one of religion but rather of faith and that distinction is what allows readers to connect completely with Daniel. Chercover also makes use of the Catholic Church to enhance the suspense of the novel, drawing out conflict within the Church itself. And we all know these days, the Church doesn't have any shortage of crime, so it's the perfect setting! But don't think Chercover saves the Catholic Church for his only target. From Protestants to VooDoo, Chercover doesn't discriminate.
There is never a shortage of suspense in THE TRINITY GAME. The whirlwind of obstacles and land mines that Daniel must overcome in this investigation are endless and realistically so. Simply imagine all of the entities that would be threatened and would be willing to fight to the death if someone could truly predict the future. Chercover imagined that and all those entities are out in full force to stop Daniel and Tim Trinity.
Another fascinating element that Chercover presents to the reader is the counter point to Daniel's search for faith, the mob mentality and the desperate need of humans to explain what they don't understand, even when it comes at a great expense:
"...if a kind of a mass self-hypnosis called Religion helps us cope with our fear, fine, but we have to look at the unintended consequences of embracing an irrational philosophy. We don't have to look far. Ground Zero in Manhattan will do. Or the Gaza Strip, if you got some air miles burning a hole in your pocket. While you're over there, make a stop in Africa, where the pope is preaching to a country ravaged by tribal war, overpopulation, chronic food shortage and AIDS. The pope tells them to stop using condoms, or the all-powerful and all-loving God will cast their souls into the fiery furnace of eternal damnation."
Obviously THE TRINITY GAME does not lack intensity. It's a thought-provoking, action-packed, multi-layered, symbolic extravaganza. The icing on the cake is definitely Chercover's wit. It sneaks in throughout the novel in sarcastic dialogue quips and colorful idioms:
"But to Daniel, you cross that line and now you're cutting God's grass."
I'm thrilled to know we haven't seen the last of Daniel Byrne. We may have had a short hiatus from Sean Chercover's publications, but he's returned in full force and THE TRINITY GAME is a masterpiece.
THE TRINITY GAME is available from Thomas & Mercer in both hardcover (ISBN: 978-1612183503) and trade paper (ISBN: 978-1612183183). It is also available as an unabridged audio (ISBN: 978-1469241685) from Brilliance Audio, narrated by Luke Daniels.