Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Vatican Princess: A Novel of Lucrezia Borgia by C. W. Gortner

The Vatican Princess: A Novel of Lucrezia Borgia.  C. W. Gortner. Ballantine Books/Penguin Random House LLC, New York. February 2016. 400 pp.  ISBN#: 9780345533975.

The Borgias: ruthless, perverted, calculating, infamous!  Lucrezia describes the infamy as a “poison in our blood.”  Some would say the family of Lucrezia was cursed. However, C. W. Gortner, after meticulous research, clearly places Lucrezia in the middle of a fictional world where her father, Rodrigo, bribes his way to the papacy as Pope Alexander VI and her mother Vannozza appears for the bounty to follow.  The whole family seems anxious to marry Lucrezia off to Spain despite the fact that she is really but a child entering her teens, not yet become a “blooded” woman.  So who is this young woman: saint, sinner or both?  We watch this woman brutally pass from the world of her father’s innocent adoration to eventually realizing just how severely her brothers hate each other and how manipulative her own father was and is in the late 15th Century. Indeed, each member of this family, including the Pope’s mistress, make their own disasters!

The hatred between Juan and Cesare clearly parallels the larger turmoil raging across Europe as Spain and France look for the opportunity to invade Italy and destroy the Borgias.  Even the cities within Italy are constantly waging civil war and seeking foreign assistance to victory.  But the spoils of victory are not necessarily true for the Borgias as the Pope is always borrowing to escape looming debt and bankruptcy of the Vatican.  Lucrezia’s first husband, a Sforza, has little money but large expectations; as the reality looms, his true nature is cruelly revealed to Lucrezia along with that of her brother Juan.  Shocking scenes are the norm herein but one finds it impossible to stop flipping pages and wondering what in heaven will happen in this hellish Vatican world.

Murder, rape, theft and so much more follow within each new chapter.  Lucrezia will briefly find great love in her second husband, Alfonso, but her own treacherous silence will test that relationship to the maximum level! 

Juan, who is worshipped by his father, trusts no one and reveals a force of cruelty and perversion that makes him totally unlikeable and perpetually mistrusted. Cesare, who moves quickly from priest to Cardinal, would rather be a warrior for he also lusts for battle and vengeance.  Lucrezia after one particular scene realizes she must stay far away from Cesare.  The results of that scene will shock the reader many times as the complex, insane plot continues. While there is a touch of repetitive snarling throughout the story, there are brilliant and potent quotes to savor and remember.

The Vatican Princess… is a phenomenal and memorable read that will provoke much talk and controversy in the days to come.  Read it and be amazed at the power and depravity of this family that scurrilously left so much pain and passion in its wake.   

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Back Blast: A Gray Man Novel by Mark Greany

Back Blast: A Gray Man Novel.  Mark Greany. Penguin Group (USA). February 2016. 528 pp.  ISBN#: 9780425282793.

CIA Operative Court Gentry has been running around the world, trying to evade those who follow him in order to kill him.  Court can’t understand why these people are those whom he used to work with.  Throughout the beginning of the novel, Court replays past cases in his mind, trying to figure out what he did that deserved a termination order. 
Now Court decides to turn it around and pursue those would-be killers, as he’d had to kill those who almost caught him.  Every death has added to his enemy’s determination to finish what they believe is a former agent gone rogue. So imagine their shock when they discover that Court has invaded a drug den in order to obtain the money and weapons he needs for his mission.  The bloody aftermath has the earmarks of his work all over it but in particular a number 6 etched in the dust, a symbol of the agent known as Sierra Six, Six, the Gray Man, or the most commonly used name, Violator.  Now he’s determined to discover his former superiors and colleagues to try to get out of them the reason for this hunt.

On the other side of the coin, we have Denny Carmichael, head of the National Clandestine Services.  He’s on top of the game and only one man is slotted for his job eventually.  Other men know Carmichael controls every agent and circumstances and fear crossing him.  But not one of them knows the real reason Carmichael is determined to end the life of Court.

In the pursuit of his hunt, Court winds up being responsible for killing more agents or former agents, but it also happens that a hidden sniper kills one of them and the news manipulates the account so that Court is blamed.  Court is wounded seriously but manages to patch himself together as he relentless pursues what he now realizes is more about Carmichael than it is Court.  Back Blast was the beginning of a game that stretched all the way to the Middle East and back to Washington, D.C.

Greany, the writer who co-authored many Tom Clancy novels, knows how to spin a riveting, pulse-racing plot that reads much like spy thriller novels of old, like those of Robert Ludlum.  For those who love crime novels or political thrillers, you certainly will be thrilled with this intense, fast-paced thriller fiction!  Good read for sure!