Simon Toyne- Sanctus/The Key

The certainties of the modern world are about to be blown apart by a three thousand year-old conspiracy nurtured by blood and lies. A man throws himself to his death from the oldest inhabited place on the face of the earth, a mountainous citadel in the historic Turkish city of Ruin. This is no ordinary suicide but a symbolic act. And thanks to the media, it is witnessed by the entire world. But few understand it. For charity worker Kathryn Mann and a handful of others in the know, it is what they have been waiting for. The cowled and secretive fanatics that live in the Citadel suspect it could mean the end of everything they have built – and they will kill, torture and break every law to stop that. For Liv Adamsen, New York crime reporter, it begins the next stage of a journey into the heart of her own identity. And at that journey’s end lies a discovery that will change everything…

Hounded. Haunted. Hunted. She is the most important person in the world. She is The Key. In the ancient Turkish city of Ruin, American journalist Liv Adamsen lies in an isolation ward staring at walls as blank as her memory. She knows she entered the monumental Citadel at the heart of Ruin but can remember only darkness. Something strange is stirring within her, whispering that she is ‘the key’. But the key to what? For the Ghost, a mercenary operating in the Syrian Desert, Liv could unlock one of mankind’s most potent secrets. For the brotherhood in the Citadel – now cursed by a terrible plague – her return is the only way to ensure their survival. And for a powerful faction in Rome, she threatens the very future of the Catholic Church. Hunted across continents and caught up in events that defy explanation, Liv turns to the only person she trusts – a charity worker named Gabriel Mann. Together their paths lead to a shocking discovery – one that will tear them apart and change the world forever…

 The first two books in Toyne’s apocalyptic conspiracy thriller trilogy, and I have to admit that despite not being a fan of the religious conspiracy genre in general, I thoroughly enjoyed both of these. I think my problem with this genre comes from early exposure to ‘The Da Vinci Code’ in proof form, which resulted in me ripping it up whilst declaring that it wouldn’t amount to anything…hmmm…shows what I know. I dabbled with a couple of other writers in the wake of DB but they really didn’t hit the spot so thanks to Toyne for shedding the scales from my eyes and here’s why…

 I am reluctant to go into too much detail regarding the plots of these as the events of the first book ‘Sanctus’ reverberate through and impact strongly on the second ‘The Key’ so I’ll avoid spoilers. In a nutshell, the central plots revolve around an ancient religious sacrament protected by the inhabitants of a religious order housed within the Citadel, an architecturally breathtaking fortress that holds many secrets in the historic Turkish town of Ruin . Liv Adamson, a young American journalist finds herself drawn to this sacred site following the suspicious death of her brother, a former member of this cloistered community, and she begins to unveil the beginnings of a conspiracy which could lead to the fall of mankind. Joining her are mother and son, Kathryn and Gabriel Mann, who have their own intensely personal reasons for thwarting this dangerous conspiracy from those who seek to conceal it and channel its power for their own devious ends. The characterisation is strong throughout and the plot is infused with a real sense of good vs evil in the central protagonists, even more so in ‘The Key’ as more figures enter the fray with the action moving between America, Ruin , the Vatican City and Iraq, and those who should be held as beyond reproof are actually the most scheming and duplicitous.

 I think what really struck me about both books is Toyne’s exceptional descriptive powers throughout, so every scene and location is utterly visual and assaults the senses. This is a skill that few writers in any genre acquire and Toyne’s seamless descriptions of something as innocuous as a half burnt candle in a labyrinthine tunnel to the sheer grandiose architectural detail of the Citadel and from the bustling back streets of Ruin to the unrelenting surrounds of the Iraqi desert are a joy to read. This visual quality coupled with the fast moving plot, aided by the clever use of short snappy chapters that have the reader thinking just one more and then just one more again, leads to both books holding the reader’s attention throughout. There are also more than a few genuinely surprising twists and turns along the way and I would certainly recommend those, like me, who are a more than a little suspicious of this genre to seek them out- you won’t be disappointed.

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Product DetailsComing 11:4: 2013: THE TOWER- Sancti 3 (Harpercollins)

A cyber-attack on NASA’s deep space search for the origins of the universe destroys the program and delivers a grave warning: mankind must look no further. Rookie FBI Agent Joseph Shepherd has the unique skills needed to investigate the breach. But he’s also hiding a secret of his own. Former New York crime reporter Liv Adamsen’s life has led her from the Turkish city of Ruin to an abandoned oil field in the Syrian Desert. An oasis grows around her new home but the desert is a hostile place, and danger draws ever closer. Charity worker Gabriel Mann abandoned Liv to protect her from the disease that is killing him. But this terrible plague, born in Ruin’s ancient Citadel, has already started to spread. Across the globe, strange weather phenomena and mass migrations are a sign that some great event is upon us. Revelation is coming: but will it be a new beginning or the End of Days?

(I bought a copy of ‘Sanctus’ and thanks to Harpercollins for the ARC of ‘The Key’)


  1. You know it’s interesting; I’m not generally one for religious conspiracy thrillers either. But your review got my attention. In part I think it’s because of the location. I don’t know enough about Turkey and that aspect of these novels interests me. And I always respect an author whose writing style is enough to draw the reader utterly in. I may give this series a go.

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