The Trinity Game by Sean Chercover is a novel of international intrigue (available July 31, 2012).
Sean Chercover fans have had a bit of a wait for his new crime novel. The wait is over, and he’s returned with a story that bears no resemblance to his Ray Dudgeon P.I. novels. However, I’m confident his fans will not be disappointed.
The protagonist of The Trinity Game, Daniel Byrne, is a Catholic priest, which of course raises questions about the nature of the novel. The theme of religion is not one that aims to preach; rather it’s a theme of journeys and self-discovery. And Chercover parallels that with the recovery of New Orleans.
Daniel is crushed when he discovers his uncle, a traveling revival preacher and the man who raised him, is not a man of faith. Tim Trinity is a con man, conning people out of money by abusing their religious beliefs. So Daniel joins the priesthood to find a miracle, to restore his faith, to discover exactly what it is he believes in.
Chercover explores both sides of the religious coin. On one side he examines the negatives, the hypocrisy and logical flaws:
All the wealth and time and labor we pour into propping up our respective priests and reverends, rabbis and imams, monks and gurus, building grand cathedrals, churches, temples, mosques, and mansions; sacrificing our young on the altar of war, war over whose imaginary friend is the real imaginary friend (might as well print My God Can Beat Up Your God t-shirts); the bigotry, misogyny, subjection, intolerance and guilt. All that human energy, wasted, in response to the simple fact that we know we are going to die, and we don’t know what happens after, and we’re afraid that this life is all there is. The question haunts us—from the chilling childhood moment when we realize that we and everyone we love will die, until we exhale our final breath.
And on the other side of that coin, Chercover illustrates the power and wonder:
Love is a verb. The weight of it hit Daniel with an almost physical force. It was the very foundation of Jesus’ message to the world. I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another. It was also the Catholic prayer for the holy day of Corpus Christi . . . now just two days away.
Daniel stood and faced the old soup kitchen. “I’ve spent the last fourteen years searching for a miracle,” he said, “searching for evidence that God is present in the world. But you know, I think what I was really looking for was that feeling I had as a kid . . . when you were God’s messenger and I was His messenger’s companion. The feeling that I was living in a state of grace.”
“That feeling came from your belief that we were helping people,” said his uncle. “I think you’ve spent the last fourteen years looking in the wrong places, son. It isn’t about miracles or having God on speed-dial. You want to be close to God? Reach down and help your neighbor.”
The sides of that coin are also illustrated in New Orleans. A city on its journey to find the faith to rebuild, start anew, live again:
Reverend Tim Trinity and Mambo Angelica Ory started walking together, and the people walked with them, down Caffin Avenue, passing one- and two-story homes, some mid-renovation with camping trailers parked in their driveways or on their lawns, others still boarded up, still bearing the spray-painted symbols left behind by soldiers after the flood waters receded, the number at the bottom of each symbol indicating how many bodies were found inside.
Veves of the damned.
But other homes told a better story, one of endurance and rebirth, of stubborn faith in the possibility that tomorrow can be made better than today. Those houses stood up straight and their windows sparkled and they wore new coats of paint and pride.
The journey Daniel makes throughout The Trinity Game is peppered with action: conflicting groups within the Catholic Church, Las Vegas gambling rings, religious fanatics—all out to get Daniel and his uncle. Daniel’s self-discovery has to happen in the midst of a cross-country chase, aided by a mercenary pal, a voodoo priestess, and his journalist ex-girlfriend.
The layers of complexity, attention to detail, and phenomenal characters coupled with the richness of the novel’s themes and the delicate way Chercover handles the topics of religion and faith make this my favorite Sean Chercover novel yet. If we have to wait several years to get a product of this quality, consider me willing to wait.
Jen Forbus is a crime fiction junkie who blogs at Jen’s Book Thoughts. A fan of both print books and audio books, she never likes to be without a story or her personal zoo of cats and dogs. When she isn’t hanging out with the Criminal Element crew, you can likely find her at Facebook or Twitter.