The Creator’s Map

Written by Emilio Calderón Katherine Silver (trans.)

For the first few chapters, this is a Da Vinci Code-style thriller. Rival groups of unscrupulous men from sinister organisations (Himmler’s SS, the Vatican Secret Service, and others) are hunting a mystic document which will give them mastery of the world, and a naive young couple stumbles into the midst of the mayhem. But The Creator’s Map— the cartographic equivalent of the Holy Grail—is soon discovered and shipped off to the SS, where it turns out to be a hoax and disappears from the story.

The rest of the novel mainly concerns the young couple’s life, in wartime Rome, engaged in low-level espionage. The background is well researched and feels authentic, but it is not a thriller. The book ends with a long epilogue consisting mainly of a posthumous letter (i.e., posted after the writer’s death) from one of the earlier protagonists, an Italian prince, explaining all the loose ends in the plot, after which the heroine is murdered in the street.

Emilio Calderón is a Spanish author of children’s stories, and this is his first adult novel, published in Spain in 2006. I find the book an uncomfortable fusion of genre fantasy and realistic historical fiction. It is well written and well translated, although with a few historical errors. I look forward to his next work in the hopes it might have a stronger and more coherent plot.