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The Last Cato: A Novel Paperback – Bargain Price, April 3, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When the murder of an Ethiopian man covered with enigmatic tattoos roils the upper echelons of the Roman Catholic Church, Sister Ottavia Salina, head of the Restoration and Paleography Laboratory of the Vatican's Classified Archives, is called to interpret the symbolism of his "scarifications." Church officials inform Dr. Salina that the Ethiopian was but one of many who are stealing Ligna Crucis, relics of the original cross upon which Christ was crucified, from church reliquaries around the globe. The church charges her and two men—a captain of the pope's Swiss Guard, Kaspar Glauser-Roïst, and an Egyptian archeologist, Farag Boswell (whom she later falls for after 39 years of celibacy)—to retrieve the relics. Before you can say Da Vinci Code, the trio plunge into an eddy of intrigue and danger as they encounter a mysterious secret brotherhood and wend their way along a labyrinthine journey of initiation rituals—with clues provided by Dante's Divine Comedy. Asensi's first novel to be translated into English is formulaic, but readers with insatiable appetites for church history, secret societies and weird initiation rituals will find some delights. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Asensi's first novel to be published in English features a clandestine religious organization, a code contained in the work of a long-dead genius, a plucky heroine, and just the right combination of obscure history and plausible conjecture. Sound familiar? The Last Cato will inevitably draw comparisons to The Da Vinci Code, but this book is in many ways more compelling, if a bit less accessible. After Dr. Ottavia Salina, a nun working as a paleographer at the Vatican, is asked to decipher tattoos on the dead body of an "enemy of the Church" from Ethiopia, she soon discovers the deceased was tied up with the Staurofilakes, an ancient order who have sought to protect the True Cross and now seem to be stealing slivers of it from around the world. The key to tracking them down? Dante's Divine Comedy. Turns out that Dante was a member of the order himself, and that the notoriously dense Divine Comedy is a kind of coded guidebook to the order's rituals. Salina and a couple companions set off, with Dante as their guide, on a rollicking, round-the-world adventure. Some of the conjecture seems far-fetched, but the research is impeccable, and the behind-the-scenes Vatican life feels utterly authentic. As engrossing as it is intelligent, this just might be the next big book in the burgeoning religious thriller subgenre. John Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (April 3, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060828587
  • ASIN: B003H4RCIO
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (178 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,733,599 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This was a wonderful book to read and I was sorry when it ended.
Memphis46
This was a very well thought out book with interesting characters, excellent story line and travel guide with Dante Devine Comedy as the guidebook.
Betsy
Firstly, let me say it is hard to critique this book without giving away too much in terms of spoilers about the plot and ending.
Joseph Devita

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 62 people found the following review helpful By ellen VINE VOICE on April 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
At first I resisted getting this book, because I thought it was another DaVinci Code knockoff - then I saw it was written BEFORE Dan Brown's hit novel, and got it. And boy, am I glad I did! Beware if you are interested in this book, not to look too hard at the book description printed on this book's Amazon computer page - it has a big plot spoiler in it - But the book is wonderful, and is the 3rd book I literally was upset to finish! (The first was Angels and Demons, the second was Carved in Bone)
As an English major, I was familiar with Dante's The Divine Comedy - not my favorite work - but Dante did for this quest what Leonardo did for Brown's book. The quest, dealing with pieces of the Holy Cross that Jesus was crucified on, takes us on a grand adventure in many wonderful cities - As a Greek Orthodox Christian, was glad there were many accurate descriptions of different sites and priests - even the Patriarch in Constantinople - Also my name is deals with Helen and Constantine, so I was more tweeked with curiosity . The only thing I didn't like, and this was due to translation issues, is they especially at the beginning kept calling our churches as temples - Some folks still think we worship Zeus in temples, and in the translation the word church was printed as temple - but if that's the greatest thing wrong with this book no prob. Also beware, the chapters are 40 pages+ or so - This is a wonderful book filled with adventure, history, romance, and just about everything that makes you pick up a book and read it - This is definitely worth reading!!!!!!!!!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By MJZ VINE VOICE on December 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Wasn't too sure about this one at first, and I went back and forth before I decided to buy it. It turned out to be one of those books you are actually dissapointed when it ends and there isn't a sequal. The charachters are fantastic! It's been a long time since I've read a book where the people in it were very real and alive. Asensi did a beautiful job in that. Regardless of the other reviews that complain about the translation, I had no problem whatsoever with it. It flowed and read like a well written novel should. The plot was gripping and the history and descriptions of all the places were so well done. The ending was just a bit, well, kind of sappy, so the 4 stars instead of 5, but that by no means took away any of the enjoyment I got from reading it. If you like history, travel and a good thriller, you will like this book.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Peter A. Kimball on July 25, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book lies at the epicenter of a triangle whose vertices are "The DaVinci Code", "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade", and "The Magic Flute". I hasten to note that "The Last Cato" was written before Dan Brown's novel, so, when the narrator, Dr. Ottavio Salina, the famous paleographer, is recruited by her superiors at the Vatican to untangle a centuries-old religious conspiracy, and you say "this is just like Robert Langdon, the symbologist", remember that Asensi is not borrowing from Brown. Although I wouldn't at all be surprised to find out that Ms. Asensi saw the Indiana Jones movie! Don't buy this in expectation of bloody climaxes and killer Nazi/Opus Dei guys though. I cited Mozart for a reason.

I have a bias toward novels with elaborate scholarly puzzles in them, so when find out from a book jacket that the protagonists are going to decode Dante and track down the True Cross, I am full of anticipatory pleasure as we plunge into Codices and Byzantine history and archaeological digs. But ultimately I can't recommend the book. I'm willing to suspend a lot of disbelief for this kind of thing, but ultimately Ms. Asensi just asks too much.

I'm not even talking only about how vast in scope and flawless in execution this previously undetected age-old conspiracy has to be, or how they are supposed to get Universal Studios-style special effects with Graeco-Roman technology. I can grumble about that, but I can live with it if I have to.

But even more unbelievable is the social psychology of it all. Do you believe, for example, that it's possible to develop a series of physical and mental ordeals such that "those who pass them [are] incapable of doing gratuitous, senseless harm"?
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Clara Haskil on February 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
You have one here. Documented, terribly imaginative, intriguing, with interesting and unusual main characters ... You will not find here another hyper-attractive and boring "Indiana Jones" man playing the principal role, but ... a nun !! And middle aged !!

But the best thing is that you will even like her, and will not be able to stop reading till the book is finished.

Just try. I have read 4 of Asensi's novels (all in spanish), and I think this one is the best of them. Recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By MLRapp on June 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
While I categorize this novel as a "fast-paced adventure/mystery," it doesn't start off quite that way; rather, it starts off slowly and just before you reach the half-way point(when the "tests" begin- I won't say anything more), the pace quickens and quickens until you find you just can't put it down. The character development and plot are finely crafted, and the historical, religious, geographical and Dante references/connections show the author clearly did an enormous amount of research.

In the aftermath of The Da Vinci Code's worldwide sucess, so many books today that happen to fall into a similar genre find themselves being comparred to Dan Brown's work, to their detriment. It doesn't do this work (and others for sure) justice to compare it to that novel, not only because this is an excellent novel that stands alone and has nothing to do with The Da Vinci Code, but also because it gives readers certain preconceived notions that may affect their enjoyment of the novel. Thus, please don't think this novel has anothing whatsoever to do with The Da Vinci Code- it is entirely different and shines alone.

While the ending is satisfying and extremely interesting, I simply didn't want it to end and like other reviewers, wish there was room for a sequel. Hopefully, more of Ms. Asensi's works will be translated into English, since she's a terrific and talented writer who completely enages her readers.
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