The Virgin of the Wind Rose grips you in its teeth and whirls you through history and around the world. As soon as State Department employee, Jaq Quartermane, is told of the tragic death of her fiancé in Ethiopia she is dragged into a terrifying investigation rooted in the tales of the Knight Templars and the voyages of the explorers sponsored by Prince Henry the Navigator.
Finding herself in peril inside an ancient rock hewn Ethiopian church, does she trust to her deep Christian faith or to Elymas, an agnostic rascal? And it is trust and conspiracy which underline this thrilling adventure, taking Jaq from Rome to France, Portugal and Israel.
While Jaq and Elymas try to solve the SATOR square, an ancient palindrome, their travels are paralleled by the story of three young 15th century Portuguese boys. Meeting in alarming circumstances, Pero, Zarco and Dias form a bond which carries them through their difficult training at the Tomar observatory and sustains them in their navigational test at Prince Henry’s fort in Sagres. Split apart by the different missions they are given, their friendship is maintained and their actions will have repercussions throughout history.
I was fascinated by the details of early exploration, which has always interested me, and the further involvement of Christopher Columbus add to the intrigue. At the same time, I was anxious to continue following the mysteries and dangerous situations explored by the present day couple. Glen Craney has made their relationship suitably prickly and intense, given their very different backgrounds, but he has allowed their humanity and understanding to shine through.
I loved Craney’s acerbic wit in comments such as, “The priest was obviously one pew short of a full congregation.” Naturally this novel will be compared to the books of Dan Brown but the quality of writing in The Virgin of the Wind Rose has the edge for me. Almost the best part is the last chapter with so much promise and fascinating clues.