Genesis (Dominus #0.5), by Tom Fox

Six stars

Fox presents readers with this interesting prequel to his full-length work, diving into conspiracies as they relate to the Catholic Church and the Vatican. After receiving reports of small donations going missing at a tiny parish church in Rome, Polizia di Stato assigns Agent Gabriella Fierro to investigate. Unsure of the importance of a few misallocated euros, Fierro nonetheless begins looking into the small parish and its priest, Father Alberto Agostini. Unbeknownst to Fierro, a former acquaintance has been dispatched to investigate as well, former priest turned journalist Alexander Trecchio. He appears at the church, creating a stir for Fierro, though neither is able to locate Agostini, who made an appointment with them both. Reluctantly working together, Fierro and Trecchio discover that many of the missing funds have a similar alphanumeric code build into their transactions, one that refers to something prevalent in the Scriptures; GENESIS. As they try to track down Agostini, the narrative offer a glimpse into a scene where a man is being tortured for information and another where a Cardinal in Venezuela is targeted for his views within the Vatican, both seemingly part of a larger issue that might tie-in to the funds. What is Genesis and how does using a small church in Rome to funnel monies play into the larger plan? Fierro and Trecchio must speak with Agostini to get some answers before the conspiracy has a chance to grow. However, those in positions of authority can sometimes lay their own traps within shell games, all in an effort to distract from a larger plan. Fox lays out this short story nicely to hint at what is to come and how Genesis might only be the beginning of a plot more sinister than anyone could have imagined. A quick read that piques at least some interest in the reader.

While I am always up for a good Vatican conspiracy thriller, presentation and layout are a must. Fox has the foundation for a great story to captivate the reader, but the way in which the story is told lessens that delivery. While there are some good characters, each with their own backstories and a connection between the two protagonists that is not fully explored, the narratives bounces from past to present to closer past and back to the present again, all in such a way that the reader is left somewhat confused and perhaps slightly irritated. Additionally, the resolution of the Genesis plot seems too basic or swift, though there is surely something afoot that arises in the final chapter of the novel. One can hope that Fox will use a full novel to explore more as it relates to the inner workings of this cabal and how their power could topple the upper echelons of the Vatican, adding politics to an already veiled system of power. There is potential here and the patient reader might just be rewarded, should they stick around a while longer.

Decent work, Mr. Fox. I am pleased to see some potential here and hope that it flourishes into something greater with this next novel.