Cover image for Unholy trinity
Unholy trinity
Adam, Paul, 1958-
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Arcade Publishing, 2000.

Physical Description:
366 pages ; 25 cm
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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The death of Father Vivaldi, known as the Red Priest because of his devotion to the poor and destitute, seemed like the beginning. In fact, it was just another link in a vast conspiracy that powerful, unseen forces will go to any lengths to conceal. Rome foreign correspondent Andy Chapman, investigating the brutal killing, discovers evidence that implicates high-ranking members of the church. He turns his information over to the investigating magistrate, beautiful Elena Fiorini, and together they begin a hunt for the killers. They find themselves up against the might of the Catholic Church and a sinister network of neofascist fanatics. Their quest leads them to the very heart of the Vatican, and back to the last days of Mussolini's dictatorship, when people changed their identities but not their allegiances. -- A pulsating thriller of stunning plausibility, heralding the arrival of an exciting new voice to the genre. -- A page-turner that artfully mixes contemporary politics and religion.

Author Notes

Paul Adam was born in Coventry in 1958. He studied law at Nottingham University, then began a career in journalism.

Paul Adam's books have sold widely around the world and have been translated into several foreign languages.

Adam is the author of a number on critically-acclaimed thrillers for adults including: Unholy Trinity, Shadow Chasers, Flash Point, Sleeper, and Paganini's Ghost. He is also the author of the Max Cassidy series for younger readers. The first book in the series, Escape from Shadow Island won the Salford Children's Book Award 2010 and was shortlisted for 4 other awards.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The search for post-Communism enemies continues: for Adam, a British foreign correspondent who's also written for TV and published crime novels, the bad guys are a slimy crew of neofascists. The action begins when a controversial priest who feeds the homeless and criticizes Vatican wealth is murdered. Andy Chapman, a British reporter, finds evidence he turns over to prosecutor Elena Fiorini; the two are soon on a trail with roots in the final days of World War II. But this is far from an intellectual exercise: both are manhandled, and more dead bodies dot the landscape. That landscape is Rome, with its narrow courts and vast, echoing ruins; Chapman's fondness for Italy seems to express the author's opinion. Unholy Trinity is a lively, fast-paced thriller, with a bit of sex and violence to keep the pages turning. (Warning: one element of the plot turns on the Vatican's role at the end of World War II, so don't recommend this novel to Catholics unwilling to examine this issue.) --Mary Carroll

Publisher's Weekly Review

Artfully crafted and intricately layered, this thriller by a veteran British journalist/crime novelist moves back and forth between 1944 and 1945 and the present to imagine a complex web of modern neo-Fascist Italian extremism entwined with corrupt Vatican politics, all nicely set against an affecting love affair between a highly unlikely pair of still young--however prematurely disenchanted--professional adversaries. In a prologue set during April 1945, Mussolini's veteran aide de camp steals away from the convoy accompanying Il Duce in his futile attempt to escape and strikes out alone for the Swiss border, driving a truck carrying 10 heavy wooden boxes. The action then switches to present-day Rome, where 30-ish magistrate Elena Fiorini and British journalist Andy Chapman meet at the scene of the murder of a rebellious Catholic priest. Chapman's Italian journalist friend Enzo breaks a story linking the murder to neo-Fascists, and Chapman tapes a young street urchin who claims that a member of Parliament visited the priest just before his murder. When Chapman takes the tape to Elena, the chemistry between them leads to bed. During a rendezvous with Enzo to meet an informer who wants to talk, Chapman barely escapes with his life as he and the informer are ambushed. The trail leads to secret Vatican archives containing evidence of papal collusion with the high crimes of Mussolini and a modern-day revival of the Fascist Blackshirt movement reaching into high places. Unraveling a fascinating tapestry of pious deceit, Adams explores carnal frailty, broken vows and religious genocide as he adroitly connects the present-day action to Mussolini's fall from power. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One Rome, present day There were times--nearly every morning, in fact--when Elena Fiorini wished that she didn't have to see the dawn when she got out of bed. That, just once on a weekday, she could stay beneath the sheets until the full light of day made sleep impossible.     She couldn't imagine such a luxury. You got used to the permanent feeling of exhaustion, the sore eyes and thick head, but that didn't mean they became any more bearable. It was still an effort, still an act of masochistic self-discipline, to drag herself out from the covers when her body and mind were begging to be left in peace.     She slipped on a thin cotton robe and padded through into the kitchen. The ceramic floor tiles were cool on the soles of her bare feet. She put coffee and water into the stainless-steel espresso pot and stood it on the stove to boil. Out of the window, the city too was emerging reluctantly from the night. The sunrise, whatever tourists and romantics liked to think, was rarely a poetic orange. It was grey, sometimes muddy, nearly always a disappointment as the sun struggled to break through the haze of smog and traffic fumes. Elena opened the kitchen window. There was already something sluggish about the air. She was starting to feel the weight of the summer heat that in a few hours would be insufferable.     She went into her study and contemplated the mess on the top of the desk: the sprawl of legal papers, statements, affidavits, briefs; the plate daubed with the oily remains of the previous evening's insalata mista and the glass and empty bottle of Valpolicella that reminded her she was drinking too much. She pulled a face and extricated the papers from the clutter, sorting them quickly into piles and squeezing them into the worn leather briefcase by the chair. It must have weighed ten kilos, maybe more. Elena sometimes thought the only exercise she got these days was lifting that briefcase.     The smell of coffee took her back to the kitchen, then, espresso in hand, she went into the tiny bathroom where she washed and applied her make-up. Her work clothes were already laid out on the bed in the guest bedroom which, since she never had any guests, she'd turned into a dressing room: white blouse, sober dark skirt and jacket, the loathsome, almost compulsory, uniform of her profession. She always made sure she selected them before she went to bed, a piece of efficient organisation marred only by the fact that she usually changed her mind in the morning and decided to wear something completely different.     She slipped the skirt on and examined herself in the full-length mirror on the wall, trying to decide if it made her hips look too big. She'd never been skinny, at least not since she was a teenager, but she worried about her weight, convinced she was slowly turning into a typical Italian mamma without the excuse of having had children first. This was when she missed her husband most -- probably the only time she missed him -- when she needed reassurance about her figure. Confirmation that, though she might be thirty-five and feeling it, she was not also an unattractive blob of cellulite. She needed a man to tell her she looked nice, to give an opinion on which clothes she should wear -- not that she had ever taken much notice of Franco's views if they didn't correspond to her own. He had been there to approve her choice, to bolster her self-esteem, not to tell her what to do.     The skirt, she decided, was acceptable this morning. But the blouse had to go. She selected another one and put it on, adding a turquoise silk scarf and silver clasp at the neck as a statement of individuality. She would remove them if she had to appear in court, in case the judge was blinded by her outrageous flamboyance.     She felt something rubbing up against her leg and looked down. It was Livia, the plump, self-satisfied cat that shared the apartment with her but only occasionally deigned to acknowledge her landlady's presence. Elena didn't pick her up. She didn't want grey cat hairs on her skirt, partly because they were unsightly, partly because she didn't like anyone in the office -- except a few close friends -- to know she had a cat. She hated the stereotype of the woman living alone with a cat. The insulting connotations of loneliness and frustrated desire for offspring, neither of which was true in her case. She hadn't really wanted the creature -- it had been forced on her by an aunt desperate to get rid of an unplanned litter -- but she'd grown quite fond of it. It was sleek and well-groomed, in contrast to the mangy felines outside in the city; the bony, hard-eyed cats foraging for food in garbage heaps or hissing at tour groups in the Roman Forum.     Elena picked up her bulging briefcase, wincing as it banged against her knee, and went to the front door. Livia strolled after her and watched as she left, showing no inclination to follow. Livia never went out of the apartment. Elena sometimes wondered if that was cruel, but cats weren't people. If they were warm and well-fed, they didn't need or desire adventure. That was all Elena wanted too: a quiet, unexciting existence. She was far too tired for adventure. Andy Chapman lay back on the pillows and watched Gabriella come in from the shower. She stood at the foot of the bed and peeled off her towel, bending over slightly to dry herself.     Sunlight broke in through the slats in the shutters, playing over her lithe body as she moved. She lifted her head and looked at him, not at all self-conscious about her nakedness.     "Enjoying yourself?"     He smiled lazily. "Beats breakfast television any day."     "Am I supposed to take that as a compliment?"     She turned to face him, rubbing the towel over her breasts. She liked being watched. Why else did she come back into the bedroom to dry herself?     "Come over here," Chapman said, "and I'll pay you the ultimate compliment."     Gabriella gave him a look of mock, wide-eyed amazement. "What, again?"     "We've got time."     "I have a train to catch."     "We don't need long."     "Speak for yourself, carino," she said and Chapman laughed.     She put on her pants and bra, smiling at him provocatively. He kept his eyes on her, thinking how sometimes it was more erotic watching a woman putting her clothes on than taking them off. She slipped the cool, sleeveless dress over her head and let it drop slowly down over her body, smoothing out the creases with the palms of her hands. Then she ran a comb quickly through her hair and checked her appearance in the mirror.     "How do I look?"     "You know how you look," Chapman said.     "Sometimes it would be nice if you told me."     "You look like a million lire."     She picked up a pillow and threw it at him. He caught it in front of his face. He could smell her scent on the pillowcase.     "Did you make coffee?" he asked.     "It's in the kitchen."     "Bring me a cup before you go."     "Do I have to do everything for you?"     Chapman grinned. `Well, not quite everything. Or had you forgotten?"     She went out and returned with the espresso in a tiny china cup. She put it on the bedside table and leaned over to kiss him briefly. Chapman reached for her, but she was too quick. She backed away from the bed and picked up her handbag and overnight case.     " Ci vediamo , I'll see you," she said casually.     "Next week?"     She paused, turning. "That depends on my husband."     Chapman nodded and watched her leave. For a moment, he'd almost forgotten she was married to someone else. He walked to work through the narrow streets and vicoli --the tiny alleys--of Trastevere, the ancient medieval quarter on the west bank of the Tiber where he rented his apartment. He had a car, parked hazardously in a nearby piazza, but he would never have dreamt of using it to get to his office. An hour in a poisonous Roman traffic jam was not his idea of a good start to the day.     In Imperial times, Trastevere had been the docklands of Rome, the riverbank lined with warehouses and quays where ships bringing grain and olive oil and spices and a thousand other commodities were unloaded. It was a ghetto for foreigners and immigrants, a warren of courtyards and tiny houses, drinking dens and brothels where the sailors went for long nights of debauchery with girls from Syria and the Levant. There were still foreigners in the quarter -- long-term residents, itinerants passing through or the busloads of tourists who came here at night to eat in expensive restaurants and have their handbags snatched by youths on scooters.     Chapman liked the character of the area. The vine-clad walls and cobbled streets, the crowded squares and cool, deserted churches. Like the rest of the city, it was choked with cars, its inhabitants slowly suffocating beneath a cloud of carbon monoxide, but he'd grown accustomed to its alluring air of Bohemianism, the tawdry dilapidation of its buildings, and wouldn't have wanted to live anywhere else. It had its drawbacks, of course. The noise, the tourists, the thieves and drug dealers who loitered in the squares, not to mention the flashy young bankers and brokers who'd moved in during the eighties and who were little different from the criminals except that their particular forms of robbery and extortion were legal.     He crossed the Tiber on the Ponte Sisto before plunging into the maze of shady streets around the Campo de' Fiori, dodging the traffic on the Corso Vittorio Emanuele to walk up past the Pantheon and the Parliament building at Montecitorio. In Piazza San Silvestro he gulped down another espresso in a bar before going round the corner to the Stampa Estera , the foreign press club which served as his office.     He went upstairs to his desk and checked the news wires to see what was happening. Then he opened his mail and settled down to read through the Italian papers, seeing which stories might interest London, which pieces he could lift and rewrite or follow up. Let the Italian journalists do the work for him, the agencies and the earnest young men at Associated Press.     He'd been there half an hour or less when the telephone rang. He picked it up.     "Pronto."     "Andy, it's Enzo," the voice on the line said in Italian. "You busy?"     "Not particularly. Why?"     "The Red Priest is dead. I'll pick you up in five minutes." Copyright © 1999 Paul Adam. All rights reserved.