Last Cato
  • Last Cato
  • Last Cato

Last Cato

4.0 28
by Matilde Asensi

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A masterful blend of Christian scholarship and thrilling adventure, The Last Cato is a novel about the race to find the secret location of the Vera Cruz, the True Cross on which Christ was crucified, and the ancient brotherhood sworn to protect it.

Holy relics are disappearing from sacred spots around the world—and the Vatican will do whatever it takes to

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A masterful blend of Christian scholarship and thrilling adventure, The Last Cato is a novel about the race to find the secret location of the Vera Cruz, the True Cross on which Christ was crucified, and the ancient brotherhood sworn to protect it.

Holy relics are disappearing from sacred spots around the world—and the Vatican will do whatever it takes to stop the thieves from stealing what is left of the scattered splinters of the True Cross.

Brilliant paleographer Dr. Ottavia Salina is called upon by the highest levels of the Roman Catholic Church to decipher the scars found on an Ethiopian man's corpse: seven crosses and seven Greek letters.

The markings, symbolizing the Seven Deadly Sins, are part of an elaborate initiation ritual for the Staurofilakes, the clandestine brotherhood hiding the True Cross for centuries, headed by a secretive figure called Cato.

With the help of a member of the Swiss Guard and a renowned archaeologist, Dr. Salina uncovers the connection between the brotherhood and Dante's Divine Comedy, and races across the globe to Christianity's ancient capitals. Together, they will face challenges that will put their faith—and their very lives—to the ultimate test.

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Editorial Reviews

USA Today
“What fans will like [about The Last Cato]: international travel, puzzles, secret societies and historical treasures.”
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-Ro st, 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 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In her first novel to be published in English, Spanish author Asensi tells a story worthy of Indiana Jones, although the adventurer here is a Catholic nun. Sister Ottavia Salina, head of the Vatican's Restoration and Paleography Laboratory, is asked to decipher the meaning of some mysterious tattoos on the corpse of an Ethiopian man who was found to possess pieces of the True Cross. Sister Ottavia, also the captain of the Pope's Swiss guards, and a Coptic Christian architect discover a connection between the crosses and clues in Dante's The Divine Comedy. In order to stop the theft of the relics, they must endure a series of trials based on Dante's purgatory or die in the attempt. Somewhat similar to Javier Sierra's The Secret Supper and Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code in the way it uses a work of art to uncover ancient mysteries, Asensi's tale is less believable, but there is enough fast-paced adventure to satisfy readers who enjoy stories involving classic European art, secret religious cults, and sinister conspiracies. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/05.]-Lisa O'Hara, Univ. of Manitoba Libs., Winnipeg Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This prolix thriller, the Spanish author's first English translation, substitutes Dante's poetry for Leonardo's painting as the basis for a plodding tale of byzantine intrigue. Dr. Ottavia Salina is Super Nun. Helming the Vatican's Secret Archive, she's a world-renowned paleographer, master of dozens of dead languages, a sharp-tongued feminist and the darling daughter of a teeming famiglia straight out of mob-movie central casting. Asensi has given us, in fact, an ecclesiastical Jane Bond whose mission is to decipher the elaborate scarification on the corpse of an Ethiopian accused of mysterious, heinous crimes against the Church-seven kinds of crosses decorate his flesh and a Greek "sigma" is imprinted on his skull. Globetrotting in company with a hunky, brainiac Swiss Guard and an obligatorily eccentric archaeologist, Salina uncovers a secret society called The Staurofilakes. Headed by the Cato, a kind of heretical Darth Vader, the subterranean order has stirred the pope's ire by stealing the holiest of relics-bits of the True Cross upon which Jesus was crucified. Further, elaborate skullduggery is required before Salina and crew finally happen upon a key to tracking down the Cato: the Purgatorio of Dante's Divine Comedy. As readers wind through the maze of Asensi's plot, they may find riveting her detailed reviews of early church history, of crucifix lore and of Vatican politics. Indeed, such arcana is one of the novel's strengths. But paper-thin characterization, clunky prose, unnecessary footnotes (in a whodunit, no less), an unconvincing romance and, after a while, a tedious reading of Dante's spiritual classic as an extended game of Clue, seriously compromise this tale.Unconvincing.

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Last Cato

A Novel
By Matilde Asensi

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright ©2006 Matilde Asensi
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060828579

Chapter One

All things of great beauty -- from works of art to sacred objects -- suffer the unstoppable effects of the passage of time, just as we do. Their life begins the moment their human creator, aware or not of being in harmony with the infinite, puts the finishing touches on them and surrenders them to the world. Over the centuries, life also brings them closer to old age and death. While Time withers and destroys us, it bestows upon them a new type of beauty that human aging could never dream of. Not for anything in the world would I want to see the Colosseum rebuilt, its walls and terraced seats in perfect condition, or coat the Parthenon with a gaudy paint job, or give the Victory of Samothrace a head.

Deeply absorbed in my work, I gave those thoughts free rein as my fingertips caressed one of the rough corners of the parchment manuscript in front of me. I was so wrapped up in what I was doing that I didn't hear Dr. William Baker, secretary of the archives, knock at my door, nor did I hear him turn the handle or open the door and look in. When I finally noticed him, he seemed as though he had been standing in the doorway to my office for eternity.

"Dr. Salina," Baker whispered, not daring to cross the threshold,"Reverend Father Ramondino has entreated me to request that you proceed to his office immediately."

I looked up from the manuscript and took off my glasses to get a better look at the secretary. He had the same perplexed look on his oval face as I had. Baker was a small, compact American. His features reflected his family heritage, and he could have easily passed for southern European. He had thick tortoiseshell glasses and thin hair, part blond, part gray, which he meticulously combed to cover as much of his shiny scalp as possible.

"Forgive me, Doctor," I replied sharply, my eyes wide. "Can you please repeat what you just said?"

"His Most Reverend Father Ramondino wants to see you in his office right away."

"The prefect wants to see me? Me?" I couldn't believe what I had just heard. Guglielmo Ramondino was the executive director of the Vatican's Classified Archives, second only to His Excellency Monsignor Oliveira. I could count on one hand the number of times he had summoned me or one of my colleagues to his office.

Baker let a slight smile come to his lips and nodded.

"Do you happen to know why he wants to see me?" I asked, backing down.

"No, Dr. Salina, but I'm certain it's very important."

Still smiling, he closed the door softly and disappeared. By then I was in the throes of an anxiety attack: sweaty palms, dry mouth, racing heart, and trembling legs.

When I had a better hold of myself, I got down off my stool, turned off the light, and cast a pained glance at the two exquisite Byzan-tine codices that rested open on my desk. With the help of those manuscripts, I had dedicated the last six months to reconstructing the famous lost text of the Panegyrikon written by Saint Nicephorus, patriarch of Constantinople in the ninth century, and I was on the verge of completing my work. I sighed, resigned, a deep silence surrounding me. My small lab was furnished with an old wooden desk, a pair of tall stools, a crucifix on the wall, and several shelves crammed with books. It was located four floors belowground and formed part of the Hypogeum, the section of the Classified Archives very few people had access to. To the rest of the world and to history, this part of the Vatican was invisible, nonexistent even. Many historians and researchers would have given half their lives to consult the documents that had passed through my hands over the last eight years. But the mere suggestion that someone outside the church could get permission to come here was pure entelechy: A lay person never had access to the Hypogeum -- and never would.

On my desk, in addition to my books, rested piles of notebooks and a low-wattage lamp (to avoid overheating the manuscripts), scalpels, latex gloves, and folders full of high-resolution photographs of the codices' most damaged pages. The long, swiveled arm of a magnifying glass rose, twisted like a worm, from the far end of my wooden workbench. Hanging from that swayed a large red cardboard hand with stars glued all over it. That hand was a memento from five-year-old Isabella's last birthday party. Of the twenty-five offspring contributed to the Lord's flock by six of my eight brothers and sisters, she was my favorite. My lips drew up a smile as I remembered charming Isabella: "Aunt Ottavia, Aunt Ottavia, let me spank you with this red hand!"

The prefect! My God! The prefect was waiting for me, and there I stood, frozen like a statue, thinking about Isabella! I tore off my lab coat and hung it on a hook on the wall. I grabbed my ID (a big C was stamped next to a terrible picture of me), went out into the hallway, and locked the door to the lab. My staff worked at a row of desks that extended all the way to the elevator doors, some fifty meters. On the other side of the reinforced concrete wall, office workers filed and refiled hundreds and thousands of records pertaining to the church, its history, its diplomatic negotiations, and its activities from the second century to the present. More than twenty-five kilometers of bookshelves hinted at the massive amount of preserved documents belonging to the Vatican's Classified Archives. Officially, the archives contained only documents from the last eight centuries; however, documents from a thousand years before were also under its protection and were kept in high-security files found only on the third and fourth underground floors. Originally housed in parishes, monasteries, cathedrals, or . . .


Excerpted from The Last Cato by Matilde Asensi Copyright ©2006 by Matilde Asensi. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Last Cato 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is a very entertaining and convincing thriller, I really do recommend this for a great read!, Once I got into it, I couldn't put it down
Drottningu More than 1 year ago
I recommend this book to everyone who likes Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code. I loved it. I loved how The Divine Comedy is so well incorporated it, in the odysseys of the characters in the book. I love that there's a love story. The Conclusion of the book is also something I really liked. I enjoyed every page!
Bella-Christenson More than 1 year ago
This book is my favourite fiction read! I really enjoy the characters, the plot, the maze of ideas the entire book takes you through. All three main characters grow throughout the whole story and the risks and decisions they make help them with their growth. If you are looking for something out of the ordinary, I really do recommend this for a great read!
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jannam More than 1 year ago
This book was more thrilling than I expected. It was also intellectually stimulating blending fiction and fact in a mesmerizing way. I would definitely read other books by this author if they were translated. Not for everyone, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and passed it on to others.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am half way through the book and I fear I may never finish. Dante Alighieri's medieval masterpiece (which plays a prominent part in the plot) has two things in common with the book, i.e. tedium and torture. It has been an enjoyable read, but a book that can be put down.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a good book, not one that I had to keep reading non-stop but it is a good summer or winter read. The characters were ok, I did love reading the history of the religion and the Byzantines and Dante's Inferno. It was a nice take on Dante's Inferno. Ending hard to believe. I did enjoy reading Dan Brown's books more. But this does deserve a read and since the book is at bargain pricing right now it would be a shame not to invest a few hours of reading.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was so thrilled to start this book, and the very idea of intrigue set among exotic ancient cultures cultures kept me going. But I walked away bitter about the type-os, Hollywood stunts, pedantic moralism, idiot characters, and the anti-climax. It could have been so much more!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Engaging from page one. Mistery, adventure, history, religion, culture, literature and an active imagination, all in one good thriller. After reading this book you understand why all of Matilde Asensi's books are best sellers in Europe.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book is overall good. The love story is pretty flat and the ending is totally far fetched, makes the entire existence of the secret society pointless, and has lots of contradictions. Except for that I like this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I gave it three stars for the effort. The plot was good, but she kept instering to much info, and so it bogged the story down. Some of it was not needed. It was a really good try.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is definitely a book to enjoy after reading The Da Vinci Code. Good plot. It end kind of weird, but left me wanting more!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a wild story about Dante, Catholicism, and European religious history. It's mystery, it's adventure, it's got everything. This book is not a leisure read, there are some slow parts, but it's well worth the time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book actually had depth. Good character development great plot development. Overall, great read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have to give the author credit for all of the work that went into this book. The main plot centers around Dante's works and clues he gives about an ancient society's initiation rites. I must say that some of the tests are a bit far-fetched, and the descriptions are a bit complex and confusing. However, if you like adventure-puzzle-mystery books about religion, secret societies, and relics, it's enjoyable and intriguing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Last Cato is one of the slowest books that I have ever read, even though there is so many adventures packed into these pages. It seems that the author was trying to create the next Da Vinci Code, but she failed miserably. The main female character lacks moral fiber, does not want to be on the quest and she disapointed me greatly. I felt that all of the characters were fairly perdictable and flat. I did not enjoy reading this novel and wish that I had spent my time reading something that I might have enjoyed maybe I should have re-read The Da Vinci Code, it would have been better.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read all of the books that are out now in the DaVinci Code genre (including the DaVinci Code!), and this was by far the best. Once I got into it, I couldn't put it down. I found myself completely wrapped up in the character's lives, and eagerly anticipating what was going to happen. I highly recommend!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although I was concerned that this was going to be too much like Dan Brown's The Davinci Code, I was pleasantly surprised by all the twists and turns in this novel. The characters grabbed me instantly and I found myself rooting for them throughout. Although the storyline lagged at times and I'll admit that I did skim through some pages to get to something better, it was well researched and a quick fun read that left me wanting to research of my own.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Vatican¿s Classified Archives director Father Ramondino introduces Sister Ottavia Salina, chief of the Restoration and Paleography Laboratory, to the Catholic Church hierarchy who believe they desperately need her services. The leadership including the Pope is upset, but not because an Ethiopian with sacred crosses and a sigma tattooed on his body was killed, but because he was murdered before they could learn more about his international colleagues and clients stealing sacred segments of the Ligna Crucis, the original crucifixion cross. Her assignment is to retrieve the stolen relics. Though she considers herself a poor choice as she solves literary mysteries not criminal cases, she agrees to find the artifacts. --- The church leadership assigns the Pope's Swiss Guard Captain Kaspar Glauser-Roist to her team when they follow a lead to Alexandria they enlist Egyptian archeologist Professor Farag Boswell to assist Dr. Salina on the quest. As they follow leads using clues she uncovers buried in Dante's Divine Comedy, the trio concludes that a clandestine order, The Staurofilakes headed by a Cato, is behind the thefts, but to stop them and retrieve what they stole will require a miracle. --- THE CATO is simply Dante meets Da Vinci. The story line is at its exciting best when either the early history of the church or Dante¿s divine tale is front and center. When the plot diverts to padded sidebars such as a tryst between the four decade celibate nun and one of her teammates, it loses plausibility and hence steam. Much of the cast is underdeveloped except perhaps the superheroine (a Sister Lara Croft), fans of religious thrillers will enjoy Matilde Asensi's tale. --- Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you enjoy historical fiction, you will love this book. When I first started it, I felt like I was reading a hybrid of Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, but about sixty pages in this book proved itself as a very original and interesting read. I read the last 200 pages in one day because I couldn't put it down!