The Seventh Sacrament – David Hewson

This is fifth of the Nic Costa series of crime thrillers set in Rome. It’s been a while since I read the previous novel, and I’m really not sure why I stopped. Well, this was a cracking episode that means it probably won’t be too long before I continue with the next in order.

The central focus this time is about an academic, obsessed with Mithraism, also known as the Mithraic mysteries, a Roman cult or religion centered that was snuffed out when the emperor Constantine accepted Christianity in the early 4th century. Giorgio Bramante, the academic, lost his son in the underground tunnels and caverns beneath the city that host many altars to that old religion. At the time of the disappearance, the son was with a group of Bramante’s students, but when they turned up they claimed to have no knowledge of the boy’s whereabouts. Bramante kills one of the students and is imprisoned for murder. Fast forward to his release from jail, and enter Nic Costa and his crew because something bad is about to happen.

First, it’s notable that Costa’s role in this is not as predominant as you might expect.

Second, the other characters are a good mix and the interaction is entertaining and engrossing.

Third, the city backdrop and the Mithraic details are well executed. So far as I can tell, the material is firmly rooted in fact even if propping up a work of fiction.

Fourth, the tension builds up very nicely, with just enough twists in the closing quarter of the book to keep you guessing.

In short, highly recommended. But to get the best out of it, do yourself a favor and work your way through the series, starting with A Season for the Dead.