The Lost Catacomb, by Shifra Hochberg
Historical mystery (108,935 words)
An intoxicating blend of Vatican thriller and heart-rending love story, THE LOST CATACOMB is a stunning debut novel set against the backdrop of the Holocaust in Italy. At its heart is Nicola Page, a beautiful young art historian who flies to Rome to assess a newly discovered catacomb of enigmatic provenance. Its magnificent frescoes hold the clues to a centuries-old murder and the existence of a fabled treasure from the ancient Temple in Jerusalem.
Assisted by a handsome Italian archaeologist, Nicola is quickly drawn into a tangled web of intrigue and peril, masterminded by a powerful priest who is determined to destroy those who would reveal the dark secrets of the past. And as Nicola uncovers layer after layer of this deadly past, she is brought face to face with shocking facts about her own family historyâfacts that will forever change the course of her life.
Nicola Page receives an invitation of a lifetime to explore a newly uncovered catacomb in the heart of Vatican Rome. There is much at stake with the discoveries Nicola and her partner Bruno will make, if the art and artifacts are of Jewish origin, they will be turned over to the Marchesa, if they are of Catholic origin, they will be turned over to the Vatican. That, however, is just the tip of the iceberg with the discoveries in the catacomb. There is also a tomb and an set of ancient murders, a mystery uncovered about Nicola's own unknown family history and a very dark secret that a member of the Vatican has kept under wraps since World War II.
An involved historical thriller with a lot of different things going on. I love dual-time stories and this one had three time periods that were involved, the present, then back to 235 A.D., and 1943-1944. The multiple mysteries the Nicola and Bruno are fettering out in the catacomb is very ambitious. There were times that I was completely drawn in and times where I felt like there was too much explanation of the characters motives and feelings that could have easily been inferred rather than spelled out; however, the overall feeling is one of intensity and intrigued and that kept me interested in what was going to happen next. The mystery that I was most interested in having Nicola solve was that of her own family. This is set up at the very beginning and I'm glad that a portion of the story was reserved for her grandmother's story during World War II.