Literary drudgery at its most gruelling...
Set in the 14th Century amidst a terrifying era of religious upheaval, Inquisition is an historical thriller that aims to court a multitude of controversies. The Knights Templar are under threat by the very church that created them; Medical Science, in its infancy, is at its most dangerous and critical and the presence of Inquisitors makes for a skittish populace. Amidst this turbulent backdrop, Colitto places an audacious and ruthless killer. Someone is killing Knights and transforming their hearts into blocks of solid iron. Enter, Mondino, a renowned physician – a man of science who is prepared to risk everything, including his life, for the knowledge the killer clearly has. What ensues is a cat and mouse game, pitted with betrayal and the unscrupulous designs of a power-hungry monk.
It sounds invigorating and grotesquely captivating, but the unfortunate truth of the matter is that Colitto’s narrative falls short, like a blunt knife trying to carve a leg of lamb. It takes an age to break the skin and get to the real meat of the story, with a growing suspicion that the story that eventually materialises won’t live up to your expectations. And those suspicions would be well founded; for whilst there is a definitive concept of an unknown alchemical formula that can render living tissue into a form of iron, how that ties into the “secret of life” or where the jump to transforming the iron to gold comes from is less clear.
My main bugbear, however, is the abundance of depressing characters. From the Knights Templar to the Inquisitor, from the Banker to Mondino – all lack substance and moral fibre, with the exception of the novice (and naïve) Templar, Gerardo and the Arabic “sorceress” (who is nothing more than a female alchemist). The Knights are portrayed as vile, paedophiles with little regard for the sanctity of human life – and no more if offered about their beliefs, customs or historical importance; whilst Mondino is depicted as a self-absorbed, puffed up anatomist who would rather risk life and limb pursuing a vague notion of a secret alchemic formula than be a father to his children, a supportive son to his dying father and a responsible teacher to his students. It becomes disheartening; reading a story where you feel no one deserves to live happily ever after.
Historical fiction is usually a wonderful medium for learning about the past, but I learnt nothing from Inquisition, for which I feel bitterly disappointed. The premise promised much, but the author failed spectacularly to deliver anything worth a second glance – a moment’s silence, please, for the lost hours of my life that I can never reclaim.
We interview C J Daugherty about Night School
- 10 January 2012