M. J. Polelle

An Italian detective must unravel the secrets of an ancient cult to save lives—and prevent a coup.

Rome is in chaos. Earthquakes shake the city. The pope is in a coma. And a Vatican scholar has been found dead in the Tiber.

Detective Marco Leone is about to take a sabbatical when his estranged friend—charged with organizing the Vatican’s secret archives—is murdered. Leone stays to investigate, but the killing is just the first in a series of ritual assassinations and attacks on specific churches—all of which were built over ancient chapels of the Roman god Mithras.

Leone’s investigation leads him to two American scholars who have uncovered a pair of scrolls that, if authentic, could rewrite history. While attempting to unravel the parchments’ mysteries, they are drawn into a bitter feud between a scheming cardinal and a charismatic tycoon, Lucio Piso, himself bewitched by the cult of Mithras. As the deaths pile up, Leone begins to wonder if Piso is involved, and if his obsession feeds larger personal and political goals. Could the cult of a long-forgotten god topple the Italian government and bring the Church to its knees?

In the tradition of The Da Vinci Code comes a thriller that dives beneath the veneer of a powerful ancient institution to explore the crumbling ruins—and the shocking secrets—that lie within.

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An enjoyable thriller . . . Polelle rewards readers with uncertainty in every chapter. Leone’s Rome is a dangerous place with a masked attacker around virtually every corner. And that’s what makes it fun to visit.
— Kirkus Reviews
Things done ‘in the name of religion’ have brought out both the best and worst of humankind. The ‘whatifs’ in this book are real possibilities—ancient legacies that may someday be uncovered and reshape the preceptions of the past and ancestral faiths.
— Dr. Steven Derfler, emeritus professor, joint doctorate in classics and archaeology (University of Minnesota)

About Mithras

Mithraism was the final pagan religion of the Roman Empire. This widespread religion centered on the worship of the god Mithras in underground caves called mithraeums, which were either natural or artificially formed. The relationship between Mithraism and early Christianity has been a source of conjecture and controversy based on intriguing but incomplete historical facts. Click the “Author’s Notes” button at the bottom of this site to get more information.