The Virtuous Saint by Johan Minto

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The Virtuous Saint by Johan Minto

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 2.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Clues in stained glass windows lead Marcus Hoag and his son on a quest to discover the lost Regula Monachorum of St Benedict. Admirable research but badly let down by the lack of proper editing.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 214 Date: August 2009
Publisher: ShieldCrest
ISBN: 978-0955855757

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Dr Marcus Hoag has been searching for the lost Regula Monachorum of St Benedict for the last thirty five years and the fruits of his research are recorded in a notebook which he carries with him. He's been searching for clues in stained glass windows in churches and cathedrals and the discovery of two previously unknown windows at his old university, St Peter's in New York, sets him on a journey to England.

With him is his son, Paul, who has recently graduated from St Peter's, the Dean's Secretary, Louise who is also an FBI agent and Chrissie a newspaper reporter who takes a shine to Marcus Hoag when they meet at the graduation ceremony. In pursuit of them is Dean John Graham, who will stop at nothing to get hold of Marcus Hoag's notebook. He pursues the quartet from Canterbury, to Lincoln, York, Durham and other places in between. As Hoag collects clues Graham works out how much money he's going to make when the treasure is put up for auction.

It's an interesting idea – a seventh-century document, long lost but with clues in ancient stained glass windows, which need to be deciphered. There are elements of heraldry, history and even semaphore, which dates back to ancient times. The author's research was obviously thorough and a love of some of our great religious buildings shines through.

The characters are endearing. Hoag senior is a veteran of the battle of Monte Cassino and in 1980 (when the events of the story occur) he's still an active and vigorous man and not immune to a little love interest either. His son, Paul, is puppyish and acts considerably younger than his age! Louise and Chrissie are less well-drawn. If I've one quibble about the characters it's the inclusion of a List of Characters at the beginning of the book – assiduous reader that I am I worked out much of the story as I went along and I could have done with a little more uncertainty about who were the goodies and who were the baddies. When one character said that Henry VIII was responsible for the death of Archbishop Thomas Becket, but wasn't picked up on the error, I was convinced that there was something suspect about her – until I remembered that she ends up as the hero's wife.

It's an author's job to tell a story and Johan Minto tells a good tale but the author has been badly let down by the lack of adequate proof-reading or copy-editing. The text is littered with spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, apostrophes where they shouldn't be and absent where they're needed. Words are misused and sentences tumble into each other without benefit of punctuation. This isn't just the odd mistake – few books are completely free of them – but I can't recollect a page without mistakes and most had several. I was pulled out of the story so many times that it became annoying when I had to reread simply to try and understand the sense of what was being said. It could – and should – have been so much better.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag. We also have a review of Minto's The Heliopolis Scrolls.

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