'Sanctus' a fast-paced thriller

Every writer would love to have a runaway best-seller like Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code.” So naturally there has been an influx of knockoff novels where there is a great treasure to be found that will explain the mysteries of life.

Only one problem: Most of these books fall short of their goal of finding a huge audience. But Simon Toyne's debut novel “Sanctus” is an extremely pleasant surprise.

"Sanctus" has all the action and drama of a great suspense thriller, plus the historical aspect that appeals to the more intellectual side of an intriguing novel — not to mention that the story is so tightly written it propels the reader along at a fast clip.

The plot centers around a secret religious sect, the Sancti, that guards a Turkish monastery called the Citadel, which operates much like the Vatican. No outsiders are allowed inside the walls of the Citadel, which is built into the side of a mountain, for the Sancti are charged with protecting the Sacrament. No one outside the Citadel knows what the Sacrament is exactly, and only a select few Sancti have glimpsed it.

When Samuel, a newly tapped member of the “inner circle,” finds out what the mysterious Sacrament is, he is horrified and threatens to expose the Sancti’s secret. Samuel, who is taken into custody by his elders, manages to escape the Citadel, and despite all odds, scales the mountain, reaching the summit where he stands like a cross then plunges to his death.

Liv Adamson, the fallen monk's sister, comes to Turkey to claim her brother’s body and soon finds herself in the middle of a centuries-old war between, essentially, good and evil. Determined to find out why her brother gave his life to expose the actions of the Sancti, Liv attempts to do what no one else has been able to do — penetrate the Citadel's formidable walls and expose the secrets of the Sacrament.

Toyne has done an incredible job with his debut. The British author, a former writer/director/producer for British television, employs aspects of his former job in that the chapters of this novel are short, the action fast, and there is a surprising twist at the end.

"Sanctus," the first of what is proposed to be a trilogy, is well-written and deserving of its inevitable comparison to “The Da Vinci Code” — which is high praise indeed.