In 1473, a brotherhood hides a secret within the work of the visionary Hieronymus Bosch. In modern day England Nicholas Laverne, a disgraced priest, returns with an artefact that could destroy the Church and the art world. However, secrets like that could kill.
Art, murder and the Catholic Church. No, it isn’t the Da Vinci Code. The Bosch Deception by Alex Connor has a lot of potential to be interesting; however I wished I didn’t have to read through to the end of this book.
The Bosch Deception spends the first third explaining the back story prior to the book’s events and the next third catching other characters up with what’s happened so far. The final sliver of the book stumbles towards the ending like a runner who remembered they were in a race and bolts for the finishing line. It is so stuck in explaining and re-explaining the past that at times it becomes unclear if the story is talking about the past or if the present is just passing by very quickly.
The book is overwritten, borderlining melodramatic. It continuously points out the obvious without allowing the reader to make their own deductions as to how this character is feeling or what the atmosphere is. Points are laboured over; for this character, this action might be worth it, but it might not, BUT it might. Adverbs are overused, along with clumsy description. For example; "as comfortable as an onion in its skin, Philip Preston strode into the gallery".
Remembering most of the characters is difficult as they are dull and serve little to no purpose. For example, Honor does nothing except tell the reader about what it was like to grow up with Nicholas. A fairly simple expository role, yet she stays throughout the story and offers little to the actual plot. Also, the pun that a woman who practises law and is the good girl in the Laverne family has the name Honor is immensely cringeworthy. Some of the characters are interesting – a personal favourite is Sabine Monette. She is older than the rest with a past and motivation that had the potential to create a fascinating character. Sadly, she is underused.
One of the story’s main hooks is that this secret would destroy the Catholic Church’s reputation. However, it is difficult to imagine anything is more shocking than the child abuse cases that made the news. The cases are briefly mentioned in the latter half of the story, but it feels like a clumsy acknowledgement.
The Bosch Deception explores the theme of religion well, comparing its purpose in the old world to a modern day business corporation. However, despite being a murder-mystery with plenty of dead bodies and an unknown threat, little tension is created. Ultimately, a frustrating and disappointing reading, not something I would buy, recommend or reread in my own time.