I’m always intrigued when a writer who has a good thing going suddenly jumps the rails into new territory. I appreciate the courage, or lunacy (or combination thereof), that it takes to make that leap. Sean Chercover had a hell of a good thing going with his series of Ray Dudgeon PI novels including Big City, Bad Blood and Trigger City, but he decided to wander out on the creative ledge. Boy, am I glad he did.
The Trinity Game is the first in a trilogy about an investigator tasked with verifying miracles for the Vatican. Daniel Byrne has looked into a lot of claims and found a lot of hoaxes, and is now burdened by the internal questions that come with such a gig and results. Then he’s asked to look into the one “miracle” he knows he doesn’t need to bother with--his uncle, an Evangelical con man named Tim Trinity, is speaking in tongues and predicting the future.
Daniel knows Trinity’s games better than most, but he can’t figure out how Trinity is playing this one. After hundreds of investigations into miracle fraud, Daniel is staring the impossible in the face.
Where Chercover goes from this coiled starting point is impressive, because he holds plot carefully in one hand and deeper issues just as carefully in the other. Where a lesser writer would either lose the grasp of story to wander into metaphysical questioning or lose the heart of the story to speed those mysterious twists and turns along, Chercover calmly walks the tightrope for the full 400 pages. As a mystery, this one won’t let you down—brilliantly paced, brilliantly plotted. As a novel, this has something that forces you to stop and think and try to wrap your head around things from angles you hadn’t considered, to live in another person’s skin for a while.
The first job of a novelist is to transport the reader, and Chercover does that completely. His investigators are tasked with more than just a mystery. Questions of family, faith, and belief are always present and always challenged. While the crime drama and action are tremendous (and vintage Chercover), I was most taken by the emotional plight of his protagonist: in a world of false prophets, what would you do if you found a real one?
“He’d found it all,” Chercover writes, “just in time to risk it all.”
As for this read, no risk is involved--this is pure reward.