The most closely Guarded treasure on Earth. An explosive ancient secret. A breakneck journey into the heart of the Vatican. In a small, heavily fortified room just north of the Sistine Chapel, a master thief is about to strike. All he needs is an instant-to steal the most important treasure in the Vatican museum: two antique keys-one gold, one silver-that protect the secret of salvation.... But a surprise awaits Michael St. Pierre deep inside the Vatican, an ancient secret so explosive, it sends him running for his life-from the streets of Rome to a small stone church in Israel-with two stolen keys and a terrible realization: the consequences of his desperate, brazen act are far greater than he could ever have imagined. For the treasure he has uncovered-the gleaming prize buried within the most clandestine structure on earth-is about to bring him face-to-face with an enemy more shocking, frightening, and insidious than anyone can guess.... From the Paperback edition.
A part of the "Inferno Follow-up" Collection
Michael St. Pierre is a retired master thief taking on one last score-knocking over the Vatican-in Doetsch's first novel, an effective papal thriller. When his beloved wife, Mary, is diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Michael reluctantly agrees to a burglary for a mysterious German businessman, August Finster. Finster will pay all of Mary's medical expenses if Michael steals a set of keys, one gold and one silver, from the Vatican. Michael pulls off the job, but naturally there's more to it than a simple robbery: Finster has sinister plans for the keys, which hold the power to keep humanity out of heaven forever. With the help of Michael's cop buddy and a Vatican priest, Michael must steal the keys back from Finster and return them to Rome. Doetsch wisely keeps the supernatural elements to a minimum, putting the focus on his characters and fusing horror and international thriller while avoiding the usual suspects (no Knights of the Templar here). Though some plot elements don't hold to close scrutiny (one paranormal character is omnipotent only when it's convenient to the plot), Doetsch's debut is an enjoyable and suspenseful read. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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April 24, 2006
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Excerpt from The Thieves of Heaven by Richard Doetsch
Nighttime in NYC
Michael St. Pierre flipped the Steiner night vision monocular down over his left eye, loosened his grip on the rope, and continued his descent from the fifteenth floor. The darkened alley, now rendered green, was his landing site. He was careful not to look toward the big city lights in the distance; he couldn't afford blindness at this moment in his life. The alley below was clear except for a few bags of garbage and a couple of rats on their nocturnal prowl. A thirty-yard jog across the street would put him over the ten-foot granite wall into the nighttime safety of Central Park. He stayed in the shadows of the buildings around him. He wasn't worried about getting caught: the hard part was over and this particular corner of the world was deserted.
He was sixty feet from touchdown when out of his left eye the enhanced one he caught a glimpse of flesh. Soft, naked flesh. It was in the adjacent building, a town house, fifth floor. The dark, nobody-home, adjacent building sitting just off Fifth Avenue. He swore he could make out a breast. He averted his eye; he wasn't a Peeping Tom. But it was a nice sight. A stone's throw away. He never would have known, but for the night vision. He wasn't worried, though: she couldn't see him, of this, Michael was sure.
He continued his descent through the hot sticky night. But, like a siren, the vision pulled him back, if only for a second. Yes, it was a breast. Two, in fact. Well proportioned
above a trim waist, the whole scene bathed in green. God, he did love the view up here. The woman lay on her back. He couldn't really make out her face but it was an exceptional body. He watched as it writhed in passion. Think of the job, he reminded himself, fighting the momentary lust.
He released his guideline, continuing his descent. He had invested too many hours to risk it all now over stolen glances at unsuspecting lovers. He would be home in no time flat if he stuck to the plan, safe in the embrace of his bride, who was far more alluring than this woman before him. Though she did possess a body like none he had ever laid eyes upon.
Without warning, as if reading his thoughts, the woman's head snapped left toward the window. Michael froze, holding fast to the line, not a sound, not a breath. Had she seen him? Impossible. He was dressed for concealment; the area around him couldn't be darker. And then his insides turned to water.
She wasn't looking at him. She couldn't. Her eyes were covered with a dark cloth; in her mouth was a ball gag. The twisting of her body was not passion but terror. He looked harder. She was bound spread-eagled to a table and she was in pain. A sudden rage filled him as he saw a figure poised at her side; the man's face was obscured but the gun in his hand was not. This wasn't a game: the woman was being taken against her will. And it was all happening less than twenty feet away from him.
He looked down. Only fifty feet to go. Freedom. He felt the small pouch on his back shift its weight. Six months of planning for that pouch; it was his future. He wasn't going to let it slip through his fingers. This was no time to be a hero.
But she was still there, the green hue of the nightscope painting her skin, her body straining against its bonds. Michael didn?t need to hear to know she was screaming
behind the gag in her mouth.