Father Thomas Kelly (Sam Cabot)
Father Thomas Kelly

(creator: Sam Cabot)

Carlos Dews and S J Rozan
Father Thomas Kelly is an American Jesuit scholar who enjoyed teaching undergraduates "feeding happily off their enthusiasm and interest" as "his own student days were barely a decade behind him." He is in his early thirties and based at Heythrop College in London to where he had moved from Boston 7 years before. He had been "a rangy Irish redhead" who had been called to the priesthood when he had found "something still and silent" and a peace, "a sense of being home", at Mass. "He'd been an exemplary seminarian" and had gone on to happily explore obscure byways of Church history, although he had proved a clumsy pastoral counsellor." But then, 8 years ago, he had had a crisis of faith and had been helped by his old tutor Lorenzo Cossa. It is Lorenzo who, now promoted to Cardinal, involves Kelly in the extraordinary events described below.

Sam Cabot is a pseudonym used by Carlos Dews and S. J. Rozan.
Carlos Dews (1963 - ) was born in Nacogdoches, Texas, and was awarded a BA in Humanities from the University of Texas at Austin and an MA and PhD in American Literature from the University of Minnesota. He taught American literature and creative writing at the University of West Florida from 1994-2003 and then, after completing an MFA in Fiction Writing at the New School University in New York in 2008, he relocated to Rome where he is now Professor and Chair of the Department of English Language and Literature at John Cabot University. It was he who had the idea for Blood of the Lamb (reviewed below)

S J Rozan (1950 - ), a native New Yorker, is a former architect in a practice that focussed on police stations, firehouses, and zoos. She has published over a dozen crime novels and many short stories. She speaks, lectures and teaches, and runs a summer writing workshop in Assisi, Italy. She lives in lower Manhattan. It was she who wrote each chapter of Blood of the Lamb, based on Dews' research.

Blood of the Lamb (2013)
Blood of the Lamb (described as A Novel of Secrets) tells how Father Thomas Kelly, an American Jesuit, is called to the Vatican. Cardinal Lorenzo Cossa is desperate for Thomas to find a missing document, a Concordat signed by Pope Martin V in 1431, that contains "a secret so shocking it could shatter the Church". Meanwhile in Rome, Livia Pietro has been called before the Noantri Conclave. Noantri, it is explained, are vampires who feast on blood (for which they have "a need and a great thirst") and can potentially live for ever (injuries are self-healing, but fire can kill them).

Thomas tries to explain to Livia that 'People were not meant to live on this earth for ever. Only through death can man achieve eternal life." But when Livia retorts,"Do you say that to the doctors at your hospitals? The ones who stop people from dying every day?", "Thomas felt the firm ground slipping." The authors obviously think she has made a significant point, but they seem rather out of their depth when trying to explain Christian theology.

Although it is certainly inventive, a bigger load of nonsense would be hard to find! Livia's mission to join the Jesuit priest on his search because one mistake could destroy her fellow vampires, is not one we are likely to care about - unless, of course, we are Noantri too. For, according to the authors, Noantri are to be found everywhere although it seems just a little odd that no-one notices that they live for ever, even though, as Livia explains, they can "stay away for years and change our identities before we return." Famous Noantri, we are told, have included Bram Stoker, Jan van Eyck, St Cecilia, Nefertiti, Methuselah, Mary Magdalene and even Jesus! It gets sillier and sillier.

The story gets off to a confusing start with an unnecessary flashback to 1849/50 and either the gremlins (or, more likely, the vampires) have got into the publication process with the result that odd sentences suddenly bob up in bold type. It is not at all clear why. Thomas himself protests, "This isn't happening. This isn't real." How right he is! Even the Pontifex (the chief priest of the Nuanti) turns out to have been Lazarus!

The one strength of the book lies in Dews' detailed knowledge of the Trastavere district and the churches and statues of Rome, which he puts to good effect in Thomas and Livia's treasure hunt from one to another of them as they search for missing pages of a poem that offers them clues as to the whereabouts of the missing Concordat - but interest flags as this goes on and on.

This is intended as the first of a series of books featuring Father Thomas and Livia (who are getting to be an increasingly close couple) - but I shall not be reviewing any more of them. Let's hope the vampires don't get me!

Carlos Dews has his own website as does S J Rozan, and there is a video interview with Carlos Dews (with S J Rozan looking on) on the goodreads site. They also describe how they work together on the My Bookish Ways site.

Please sign my GUEST BOOK. All comments, contributions (or corrections) welcomed!


Blood of the Lamb cover
The cover is enigmatic. The plot is plain silly.
Return to