The entertainment value of a conspiracy thriller is directly proportional to the outrageousness of its premise. A VIAL UPON THE SUN, written by the father-and-son team of James and Craig Codlin, has an over-the-top premise that delivers plenty of excitement.
In the 15th century, infamous Grand Inquisitor Tomás de Torquemada penned a document outlining a plan to restore the Spanish Empire. Five centuries later, his nefarious scheme is finally coming to fruition as his spiritual descendants use modern technology to usher in a new Dark Age. While the Hapsburg imperial dynasty takes power in Spain and the Vatican, a group of heroes tries to stop them from turning entire South America into their colony.
Among our protagonists are Martín, an architect and a CIA asset as well as his brother Nicolás who is a revolutionary guerrilla fighter. There’s Gina, a journalist and a president’s daughter. Finally, there’s their mentor, improbably named professor Teodoro Lenin. These are not especially well-rounded characters: while Nicolás keeps spewing corny Communist slogans, professor Lenin is here mostly to provide exposition. And yet, even though its characterization could use improvement, A VIAL UPON THE SUN requires no help when it comes to pacing. A hefty book, this novel nevertheless moves quickly. As our heroes race all over South America, they’re fighting agents of the conspiracy every step of the way. There are chases and cliffhangers, abductions, assassinations and—this being a novel featuring the Inquisition—auto-da-fé.
Like all conspiracy theories, the one presented in A VIAL UPON THE SUN is full of contradictions. It is both everywhere and nowhere, all-powerful and yet curiously fragile. Its managerial style could use some improvement: despite being a conspiracy of thousands, all decisions within the organization are seemingly made by the same three people. Running a conspiracy in such a way must be a nightmare! All of these three principal villains—a pope, a king and a business tycoon—are all so preposterously evil, readers will love to hate them.
As silly as it is entertaining, A VIAL UPON THE SUN by James and Craig Codlin is a fast-paced conspiracy thriller that will make for a fun summer read.
~Danijel Striga for IndieReader