on June 1, 2004
What a disappointment. Most of the main characters, aside from Priamo and the investigator, are entirely one dimensional and give you the sense of an author who filled out a character development worksheet (ok, this character wears silver bracelets, crochets a blanket for her long-gone trosseau, and has a spit curl) and then plugs in the appropriate details by formula over and over again. I finished the book and could list only two or three superficial details I knew about all three of the co-conspirators, the duchess, the banker, etc. The first few chapters were interesting but the promise quickly dissipated, to the point where I was skipping who paragraphs in the last chapter in an attempt to just finish the thing. NOT what you'd expect a reader to do in a suspense novel, but Arturo Perez-Reverte just doesn't make you care.
I give it a two rather than a one star rating only because the character of Father Priamo is relatively well drawn and interesting. But it's hard to hold a book just on the basis of one character.
This reads like the work of a mediocre college student.
on May 24, 2004
As one of Perez-Reverte's earlier novels, the characters are not quite as well fleshed out as they are in his later books. On it's own however, it is quite the entertaining read. The main character, Quart, comes across as a priest who doesn't think of himself as a priest so much as a 'soldier of the church' or a modern incarnation of a knight templar. As a result the reader experiences Quart's inner turmoil through his eyes as an unusual priest whose conscience seems to be lacking (or rather buried) so he can perform the 'dirtier' work of the church. Although not an inquisitor, he comes across more like a jaded detective focused only on his duty. Perez-Reverte's writing style is enchanting and draws you into the story creating rich visualizations of the church, it's parishoners, and it's custodians. Perhaps not as good as his later works, it still remains an intriguing story in which a careful eye can discern the emergence of a writer whose style is emerging and becoming more refined. A great read for anyone interested in church mysteries or a mystery set in modern Seville in Spain.
on October 27, 2003
When an ingenious hacker infiltrates the Vatican's computer system and leaves a message on the Pope's desktop imploring the Vatican to save the soon-to-be demolished Our Lady of the Tears church in Seville, the Vatican deploys its version of a special operations expert in the formidable personage of Fr. Lorenzo Quart. Quart is handsome, rugged and epitomizes the business end of the Vatican while promoting a no-nonsense vision of the Church in Rome that exactly opposes the cozy sanctuary feel of Our Lady of the Tears. The congregation of the old and crumbling church believe that the building itself has an uncanny sense of survival; two murders or accidents have already taken place; the victims, people involved in the church's scheduled demolition. World-toughened Quart believes no such thing, he attributes the church's strange staying power to its motley crew of supporters: an old renegade pastor, his young computer-savy associate, a art-restoring nun from California, a willful yet beautiful aristocrat and her old-fashioned mother with a fetish for Coca Cola. The opposition is just as real--a jilted banker amd his hilarious stoogelike henchmen who envision a more self-serving and lucrative edifice on the Our Lady of Tears property.
The plot however is secondary in this most wonderful of character studies. As Quart discovers the different truths that center around the old church, he ekes out the meaning that the Church has not only for its individual protectors, but also for himself. Like any truely good piece of literature the main character undergoes some metamorphosis; Quart's is profound and well worth the read through the stirring backdrop of beautiful Seville.
Unlike some of the other reviewers, I find the "Seville Communion" incompariable when looked at in the same context as "The Flanders Panel" and "Club Dumas". While I liked these other novels, I was moved by the Seville Communion and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys their characters made of flesh and blood, not just stereotypical ideals.
on August 8, 2003
The first book I read by Perez-Reverte was The Flanders Panel. Instantly, I went out and bought this. I was not as impressed by this novel, although it was very good.
First off, the characterizations were not as rich, as pure. Some of the characters were poorly detailed. Don Octavio is a good example. I was never really clear on his importance in the story. He never played a critical role, seeming to be an unnecessary character. His role in several relationships was important, but as a character, he seemed lacking. The Three villains were another good example. They were largely one dimensional: The fat, old, hedonistic leader. The lost and lovely, but compromised, singer, young at heart, protected by the men. And the battered, punch-drunk, silly, and far too loyal boxer. They are one dimensional and at best, I simply wanted them to die so that I wouldn't have to read about them anymore. I almost got my hope due to their unflinching stupidity, but I was saddened to discover their return.
However, that is not to say the book was entirely bad. The story itself was a familiar one, from many a dime-store novel. But, as with all classic stories, the value is in the telling, not in the originality. Father Quart was interesting, and it was fun to watch him come of age. Yes, that is right. The story is largely a tale of the coming-of-age of a middle-aged priest. Many people call it a mystery, but it isn't really all that mysterious. I knew whodunnit, as it is so charmingly written, shortly after it was done. There were not a lot of surprises, certainly not enough to make it a mystery. Granted, it does follow that pattern of a story line, and none of the characters (including two of the priests central to the story) are sinless, but it really isn't about that. It is a tale of discovery, of hope, of love. That, my friends, is not a mystery. It is a coming-of-age story that is parading itself as a mystery, and in that role, it is excellent.
The technical details are a bit boring, so I have left them for last. The book is well put together, although the chapters could have been a bit shorter (like all of Perez-Reverte's books...is it possible that American's merely have a short attention span?). The translator was not as flawless, as there are some turns of phrase that are quite bizarre and discontinous. Twirling one's cigar in one's mouth is not an activity for which I would personally use the term 'voluptously', but that may be a matter more of style than translation. However, things like that were not in the last book, so I suspect that it is translational. The singing that oen of the three villains does almost always is a bit obnoxious, a trend I hope is reserved to this novel. Last, but not least, a few more translations of Spanish and Latin titles would be helpful. I have elementary knowledge of both languages, but there were times when I was completely unable to make out what was being said.
A good book, overall, and a fun read. I recommend it. It will join the ranks of my "Borrow to my friends" novels.
on July 3, 2003
People who have never read Arturo Perez Reverte will be deceived when told "Seville communion" is a plain "whodunnit" thriller. Reverte's books are muchh more than that. What he usually does is imagine an unusual situation (the plot), and unusual characters, and these characters will relate to each other with the unusual situation as background. This is how he works, and we can notice it in "The Dumas club", "The Flanders panel" and "The nautical chart".
"Seville communion" follows the same pattern. The unusual situation is that someone named Vespers has hacked into His Holiness The Pope's personal computer. There, vespers leaves a message about how a small but ancient church in Seville is killing people who want it destroyed. Yes, it's a bit strange, but Reverte knows how to manage the bizarre plots he conceives.
The main character is Father Lorenzo Quart, a member of a "black-ops" branch of the Catholic Church in Rome. More like a soldier than a priest, he travels to Seville to see what's really going on. In the Andaluzian city he will find many of those unusual characters, like an ambitious banker who wants the grounds the church lies on, his ex-wife, beautiful, powerful, with a little crush on men who wear black, her old, Coca-Cola addicted mother, four small-time crooks who can't do anything right, an old priest who will do anything to save his parish, and other interesting people.
Reverte's characters are developed almost to exhaustion (the author's exhaustion, not the reader's). His story flows very well. Reverte writes in a way that doesn't offend the reader with idiotic paragraphs and chapters, and sometimes he deliberately hides one thing or another from the reader, leaving him/her to think. All these elements together make you forget that "Seville communion" 's genre is supposedly a mistery thriller. It's way more than that.
Although Reverte's books may seem strange (pointless) at a first glance, you have to get used to them to fully appreciate his kind of literature. Don't give after only a few pages.
on May 20, 2002
Generally speaking, readers are forced to choose between intelligent, character-driven, quality literature and dumbed-down, mindless, plot-driven fiction.
Arturo Perez-Reverte is one of the few writers who finds a happy medium between the two. Yes, his books center around an exciting plot, move at a healthy pace, and leave little time for the reader to think about character development or artistic merit. And yet, his books are more than just mind candy. They are smart, suspenseful thrillers that will leave you feeling at least satisfied if not wholesomely enriched. The Seville Communion is no exception.
Set in modern-day Seville, this is the story of Father Lorenzo Quart, sent by the investigative arm of the Vatican's foreign affairs ministry to investigate two mysterious deaths in an old, neglected church that local banking executives want abolished, so the land can be used for more lucrative development purposes. A feisty old priest and a local aristocratic woman lead the efforts to keep the church alive. And an anonymous computer hacker is breaking into the Pope's personal computer system to deposit messages warning the Holy See that this old church will do what it must to protect itself and ensure its survival. Perez-Reverte creates a cast of colorful characters - Quart, the ruggedly attractive priest whose vow of chastity never seems to be his top priority, Macarena, the elegant aristocrat who always seems to be seducing him, and many more. Set against the backdrop of Seville, a city filled with old world charm and beauty, this novel has the feel of a period piece even though it is set in modern day, complete with cell phones and computer hackers.
Though The Fencing Master, in my opinion, is his best work, The Seville Communion is an excellent read, an exciting whodunit for intelligent readers.
on November 29, 2001
A mysterious computer hacker named Vespers has broken into the Vatican computers to send an appeal to the Pope to defend an old church against the corporate and ecclesiastical powers who seek to destroy it. Father Lorenzo Quart is sent by the papal curia to Seville to investigate this strange church, which apparently kills to defend itself. Two men have died, and there is more death to come. Father Quart soon finds himself in a quagmire of religious fervour, financial skulduggery, blackmail, kidnapping, murder and yes - temptation in the person of a beautiful young duchess. All is resolved rather hastily in the end, but if the plot leaves something to be desired the journey turns out to be worth the effort. The author's tongue-in-cheek tone makes it clear that you're not meant to take anything too seriously, and his loving evocation of Seville, city of Carmen and manzanilla, is quite impressive. Although this is not one of Mr. Perez-Reverte's strongest efforts, "The Seville Communion" is a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.
on October 22, 2001
The Seville Communion starts with a fascinating premise - Vespers, a computer hacker, has somehow gotten past the Vatican defenses and into the pope's private computer. The hacker leaves a message that leaves the Curia suspicious - that a church in Seville is killing to defend itself. The church heirarchy puts Father Quart, a member of the IEA, on the case, and lands him in Seville.
Father Quart, or, as he calls himself, the Knight Templar, finds Seville somehow different from the other places he has been sent to put out fires by the Vatican. Something in the history of the city, and the characters he meets, makes this a difficult place for the priest to maintain the discipline and objectivity which have made him so successful. Yet, in the face of a beautiful woman, an uncommunicative priest, and an unusual nun, he still attempts to do his duty.
While the plot was fascinating, and the characters well-drawn, I still didn't enjoy this title as much as others I have read by Perez-Reverte. Parts of the plot seemed choppy, and it was difficult to understand where the plot was going. Despite this, I still recommend the book. For nothing else, read it for its wonderfully evocative sense of Seville and this ancient Spanish city.
on July 6, 2001
A hacker cracks Vatican security and sends an urgent plea directly to the Pope: Save Our Lady of the Tears. The crumbling Baroque church, located in the heart of Seville, is slated for demolition, and two of its defenders have recently died. Accidents - or murders? The Vatican promptly dispatches Father Lorenzo Quart, their worldly and enormously attractive emissary, to investigate the situation and track down the hacker, known to the Vatican only as Vespers. Father Quart's search for Vespers leads him to Father Priamo Ferro, the coarse and zealous parish priest, who has the full devotion of his small flock; Sister Gris Marsala, a former nun from California who is determined to restore the church; Pencho Gavira, the ambitious young vice-chairman of the Cartujano Bank; his estranged wife, Macarena, a perfect Andalusian beauty whose aristocratic family is closely linked to the church's history; Macarena's mother, the Duchess of El Nuevo Extremo, an elegant insomniac with a taste for Coca-Cola; and Honorato Bonafe, a tabloid reporter bent on getting the dirt on everyone. Father Quart is slowly seduced by the splendor of Seville - and the beauty of Macarena. As time runs out on the church, he is caught between powerful developers who have a stake in Our Lady of the Tears and his loyalty to the Vatican and his own vows.
on April 8, 2001
This book's strong point, if any, is humor, something I would not have guessed from its advertising. Because of its extravagant characters and dialog it is occasionally reminiscent of The Confederacy of Dunces. But it is also humorous in a way Perez-Reverte may not have intended -- because of its mistakes about the practice and language of a Catholicism he is trying to lampoon, the improbability of his action and dialog, and the number of times that the translator (also not sufficiently acquainted with the Catholic jargon) gets almost but not quite the right word. When someone thinks there are 3000 archbishops in the world (page 21) you can hardly believe him when he talks about the faith life of priests or the sexual fantasies of nuns. The characters are unreal, and so they and their deeds and consequently what there is of a plot are not believable. The cover touts it as a novel of suspense, a thriller, a whodunit, but it is in no way any of those; it is not until after page 300 that we even have a bona fide murder. I found the book boring, and when the surprise endings finally came, I was just glad the book was over.