Book Review: The Virgin of the Wind Rose by Glen Craney

While investigating the murder of an American missionary in Ethiopia, rookie State Department lawyer Jaqueline Quartermane becomes obsessed with a magical word square found inside an underground church guarding the tomb of the biblical Adam.

Drawn into a web of esoteric intrigue, she and a roguish antiquities thief named Elymas must race an elusive and taunting mastermind to find the one relic needed to resurrect Solomon's Temple. A trail of cabalistic clues leads them to the catacombs of Rome, the crypt below Chartres Cathedral, a Masonic shaft in Nova Scotia, a Portuguese shipwreck off Sumatra, and the caverns under the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Intertwined with this modern mystery-thriller, a parallel duel is waged: The year is 1452. One of the most secretive societies in history, Portugal's Order of Christ, is led by a reclusive visionary, Prince Henry the Navigator. He and his medieval version of NASA merged with the CIA scheme to foil their archenemies, the Inquisitor Torquemada and Queen Isabella of Castile, who plan to bring back Christ for the Last Judgment by ridding the world of Jews, heretics, and unbelievers.

Separated by half a millennium, two conspiracies to usher in the Tribulations promised by the Book of Revelation dovetail in this fast-paced thriller to expose the world's most explosive secret: The true identity of Christopher Columbus and the explorer's connection to those now trying to spark the End of Days


From the synopsis and opening chapters I realised that The Virgin of the Wind Rose was going to be a very different book than I was used to reading. It's not often I pick up a book with a religious focus and usually the mention of the CIA or other such organisation in the description would see me pass it over. This is not a book I would have chosen for myself.

So why did I agree to read and review it? There were a number of reasons: I was excited to be offered the book to review, I'd not read any of Glen Craney's books before, I'm a fan of dual time narratives, I like a good conspiracy theory and the most compelling was the historical aspect.

In the 15th century, three young boys (Pero, Dias and Zarco) share ambitions to become sea-faring explorers and pass various tests to be admitted into a secret society. This part of the novel follows their lives and how they become part of a conspiracy to thwart Queen Isabella of Castile's plans. Prince Henry the Navigator and Queen Isabella of Castile are familiar historical figures, but in The Virgin of the Wind Rose Glen Craney puts a very different connotation on the relationship between Portugal and Spain.

Alongside this narrative is one set in the modern-day and it was this part I had difficulty getting into, at first. I didn't warm to the main character, Jaq. This wasn't a good sign, though she did improve in my estimation as the story progressed. I had trouble reconciling her religious beliefs with her role in modern society and also found her relationship with her mentor, the fanatical Reverend Merry, whom she blindly trusts, a little disturbing.

As a result of my first impressions I had a couple of false starts. I began to feel that this novel was not for me, but at some point, and I'm not quite sure where in the modern-day story this happened, there was a shift in pace and I found myself eagerly awaiting Jaq's next move, caught up in the non-stop action as each clue was discovered, solved and followed.

My favourite character was Elymas, the antiquities thief. In the early chapters he flits in and out of the story, turning up when least expected like the proverbial bad penny. The scenes he featured in were always entertaining and he was the perfect foil for the more controlled Jaq.

On the whole Glen Craney's writing style appealed to me, as did his sense of humour which surfaced in the exchanges between Jaq and Elymas, raising a chuckle or two; there is also a memorable description of a barkeeper. I should quote them here, but I believe these gems should be savoured first hand. They provided a little comic relief before the story raced off again.

Glen Craney was also successful in separating the two time frames, giving each part the distinctive feel of the period in which they were set. Each one could have been a standalone novel, yet they complemented each other in such a way that no matter what time frame I was in, I was eager to get back to the other. This surprised me as I usually favour the historical setting in dual time narratives.

The attention to detail is phenomenal, as are the many twists and turns as each conspiracy unfolds. I admit to getting lost a few times and having to back track to make sense of what had happened. For me, the greatest twist was the dramatic conclusion and definitely not the outcome I expected.

I can understand why this book would appeal to fans of authors such as Dan Brown and despite my initial misgivings, I was pleasantly surprised how much I'd enjoyed it. While I may not read any of Glen Craney's other thrillers, his historical novel The Spider and the Stone is on my list of books to read.

Thank you to Glen Craney for providing a free copy of The Virgin of the Wind Rose for me to read and review.


  1. Thanks for the great review, Yvonne, and for taking a chance on the book.