"From the very first page, Day of Confession defies the reader to look away for a moment and resonates with the confidence and effortless expertise of an author who knows we will not" The Express
"Grippingly conceived and recounted" Sunday Times
The book I am about to review is very dear to my heart as is its author. I read it a good few years ago, so my memory of it is not perfect, but I am writing about it because both this book and its author are very important to me; they form my introduction to the conspiracy/crime thriller genre and I still believe that Allan Folsom is one of the best authors in this field. It pains me that he is not more widely known amongst my bookish buddies, and for this reason I write the following review. As always, I begin with a synopsis:
In Italy the Cardinal Vicar of Rome is assassinated during a celebration of the Pope’s birthday.
In Los Angeles Harry Addison, a highly successful entertainment lawyer, finds a desperate message on his telephone answering machine from his long-estranged brother, Daniel, a priest in the Vatican.
Hours later a tourist bus on which Father Daniel is travelling explodes on the road to Assisi.
Arriving in Italy to claim his brother’s body, Harry is abruptly plunged into a Kafka-esque nightmare of deception and terror. Learning that Daniel is the prime suspect in the assassination of the Cardinal Vicar, he soon suspects that his brother may have survived the bus explosion and still be alive, but before he can confirm his suspicions he is himself framed for the murder of an Italian policeman.
On the run from the authorities and desperately searching for Father Daniel, Harry discovers someone else is looking for his brother as well – the infamous international terrorist and maniacal killer, Thomas Kind. Pursued and alone, Harry finds himself at the centre of a monstrous conspiracy spun from the very heart of the Vatican, where men of God are using the Devil’s hand to establish a new Holy Roman Empire...
Folsom is a very talented writer. He causes a wide range of emotions to surge in the reader, from fear, to concern, to that spine-tingling feeling of suspense when you really have no idea what will happen. Most of all I felt a lot of sympathy and empathy for many of the characters, especially those innocent folks who are dragged into this horrible conspiratorial web and who you wish the best outcome for, but know that not everyone can be saved. Perhaps that is what I find different about Folsom’s work in general: his heroes don’t always save everyone, innocent people get caught up in these ugly situations and sometimes they suffer as a result. He interestingly attempts to be as realistic as possible with a storyline that incorporates such global, immense conspiracies, and I think he does so rather well. The novel is clearly well-researched, and comes with a map of Italy and the Vatican as well as a list of characters to keep you up to speed.
Folsom writes at a good pace. When the pace is fast, it is really fast and your heart is in your throat, just as towards the end of this book when Harry is carrying out his big escape and rescue plan which comes across quite a few problems; Folsom refuses to let things occur the way that you’d expect them to. But it is not just the action that causes those emotions, but also the love for the characters. At other times the pace is slower, allowing you to build a picture of what is going on, which is quite necessary with the conspiracies that Folsom comes up with, but is also important for allowing you to connect with the characters and understand them and empathise, a word I think I mentioned earlier.
Folsom is not afraid to ruffle a few historical feathers to get down to a really good storyline and a complex conspiracy theory. The conspiracy he constructs in Day of Confession is interesting in how simultaneously possible yet unlikely it is. You think at first 'no way, don’t be ridiculous', and then you think 'hmm but what if...? It isn’t such a bad idea'. His conspiracies are generally well-thought out, and if you enjoy Dan Brown and Raymond Khoury, you can most definitely add Folsom’s Day of Confession to your To-Be-Read list.
This novel is full of twists and turns so that you are honestly never sure what will happen next and how this all will end. That is what I love about Folsom, the energy of his writing, the enthusiasm, too much for some but perfect for me. I particularly like the ending of this and other Folsom works: when the story ends, you are left with a deliberate, blatant hint that the story has not ended at all, and that there is still so much more to uncover. Just when you think it is all over, a final clue emerges, and you and often one of the characters are left realising that you have only just scratched the surface.
Day of Confession is a movie in writing, I absolutely adore this book, one of my favourite from this author, and since reading it I have never looked back and have become addicted to the genre. I think it is a mighty shame that Folsom is not more widely recognised, because I fear his writing, or the way it is edited, has suffered as a result. His other works include The Day After Tomorrow, The Exile, The Machiavelli Covenant, and The Hadrian Memorandum.