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A definite must for all readers attracted by thrillers in a historic context,
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Last Cato: A Novel (Gebundene Ausgabe)
This is a book that can trigger many sparks of interests in a multitude of areas: similar to Dan Brown's 'Angels and Demons' and 'Da Vinci Code' this book builds up suspense from early pages with a dead person carrying a mysterious box and showing strange marks all over the body. The thriller like story is then very well combined with a lot of historic background of the Church and history. A nun who tells the story, a Vatican Swiss Guard Captain and an Egyptian archeologist are teamed up to stop a secret organization. Their mission takes them to important historical places where they must pass very difficult tests decoding symbols and Dante's 'Divine Comedy'.
After setting the ground and a good characterization of the 3 main characters, the story builds up a fascinating course at a relatively high speed. It is very difficult to stop reading with all the tension being built over the various tests performed, but I could not resist against verifying some of the historic references after important highlights of the book.
Matilde Asensi uses a new interpretation of Dante's Divine Comedy to code the tasks required in the various tests in a very interesting way. The book is a very well done mix of fiction and research and invites interested people to research all information sources about the places named in the book, Dante's Purgatory, the excavation results from various sites and other points of interests. The book appears to have a more comprehensive research foundation than Dan Brown's novels but does not reach the same action speed as those.
The Last Cato is a definite must for all readers attracted by thrillers in a historic context. The author has a rare capability to span a wide area of topics (religion, history, Mafia, mystery etc.) to build up the story. Although overall a remarkable novel, I have found some few handicaps:
- Few parts of the text are either incorrectly translated from the original Spanish version of the book (example region of Ravenna is located south of the Po Delta not north of it) or have assumptions of the author not corresponding to reality (example: the True Cross is made of olive wood according to most recent research and not pine wood, see William Ziehr, Das Kreuz, Stuttgart 1997, p.63)
- Irritating is the use of Spanish nomenclature of the Italian place/street names in Italian cities that were carried over into the English translation.
- The phantasy of the author is remarkable, but sometimes stretching well the credibility: some mechanisms used by the Staurofilakes cannot have been working since about 700 years, for example the wind generation devices capable to produce hail and various temperatures of the winds falling into a chamber
- The running exercise seems more a walking exercise if you calculate the speed the 2 main characters were able to perform when they realize they have only half an hour left over.
- The diving experience is way over the capabilities of non-expert divers and could match well in a James Bond film
- The end of the story is a bit too abrupt and does not match well the careful buildup of the case and the tension in the story
On the other side, Dante fans will appreciate to be able to study the differences that can be found in the translations of the Purgatory between the British English translations and American English, as featured in Matilde Asensi's book (for the British English translation, see following URL where the English text can be selected in the menu: [...]
The transformation of the characters during the novel is well done and shows very well the difficulties encountered by people that have maintained strict rules on their behavior due to their cultural and religious requirements. The novel raises many questions about today's way of life, leaving lots of thoughts to be followed up after the lecture of this novel.