Set in modern-day Rome but tied intricately to the city’s ancient past, The Seventh Sacrament is long on atmosphere, revealing a part of the city that few tourists will ever see much of: its historic catacombs. This fifth book in David Hewson’s well-received Nic Costa series follows the efforts of Costa and his fellow Roman policemen Gianni Peroni and Leo Falcone to solve a case that the department bungled fourteen years earlier.
When seven-year-old Alessio Bramante disappeared in one of the tunnels being studied by his archaeologist father, Giorgio, the department’s chief concern was to find him while he was still alive. As time seemed to be running out, a decision was made that would ruin one man’s career and haunt Detective Leo Falcone for the rest of his life. The boy’s father was purposely left alone in the cell of one of the suspects in his son’s disappearance where he tried to beat a confession out of the prisoner. The prisoner did not survive that encounter and, as a result, the case against him and his fellow suspects fell apart. Alessio Bramante was never found, and his father turned out to be the only one to serve prison time as a result of his disappearance.
Now, fourteen years later, someone is picking off the remaining suspects one by one and has even attempted to kidnap Detective Falcone. Because Giorgio Bramante has recently been released from prison, it is easy to name him the prime suspect. What proves to be nearly impossible is finding him before he finishes going down the list of men he considers responsible for the loss of his son - and Falcone appears to be at the end of that list.
Readers of earlier Nic Costa novels will already know much about the personal lives of Costa and his colleagues, but Hewson has made sure that this one can be equally enjoyed by those reading their first novel in the series. His characters, including the villains, are fully-fleshed human beings who share the usual strengths and weakness of the species. One of the novel’s strong points, in fact, is the way that Hewson develops personal lives for his characters and those closest to them, something that not all thriller writers bother to do.
The Seventh Sacrament is a complicated narrative that requires the reader to pay strict attention as Hewson tells his story via several points of view and across several timelines: the present, the weeks just before and just after the boy’s disappearance, and fourth-century Rome. This extra effort is ultimately rewarded by the way that Hewson so completely ties together all the loose ends and false leads into a satisfying ending.