The Lost Catacomb
In the spirit of Dan Brown, Hochberg gives us the story of committed academics who are invited to analyze the surprising discovery of an untouched burial chamber in one of Rome’s smaller catacombs. Nicola Page from the U.S. joins forces with Bruno Recanati to try to decipher the frescoes adorning the chamber, which combine Judaic and Christian elements. They eventually conclude that the room is the hidden burial chamber of an unknown Pope and a young Jewish woman this Pope admired. From there, the story leaps back and forth between the third century AD, 1940s Italy, and the present day, a common denominator being the lost treasures of the Jerusalem Temple, destroyed in AD 70.
The scenes set in the 1940s starring the young Italian Elena Conti, the rather nefarious priest Mauro Rostoni, and the American undercover officer, Tom Keating, are by far the best – the storyline is fast-paced, boosted by a dramatic and well-described historical setting. In comparison, the third century storyline is weak and could have been excised. As it is, the author has so much to share with us she generally resorts to telling rather than showing, resulting in somewhat underdeveloped characters throughout. All in all, as an interesting story about lost art treasures and greedy priests pitted against determined academics, The Last Catacomb is an entertaining read.