The Madonna List

Written by Max Foran
Review by Cindy Vallar

When St. Dominic dies in 1221, the list of names discovered on his body is placed in the Vatican archives with the documents pertaining to his sainthood. A copy is hidden in a statue of the Madonna, which eventually ends up in Canada. Ambitious and arrogant, Bernard Birous of Genoa enters the Church in 1838. His mentors recognize he lacks the piousness of others, but feel they can mold him to do their bidding. That misconception and blackmail over the suicide of a woman who saw visions of the Virgin Mary eventually leads to Birous’ banishment to New South Wales. Martin Goyette of New France yearns to travel and become an artist, but a tragic accident leaves him crippled. His idleness and inability to make decisions lead to his becoming caught up in the doomed rebellion to take Canada back from the British. Imprisoned then convicted, Martin endures transportation to an Australian penal colony, where his encounter with a priest and a native girl lead to violence, love, betrayal, and tragedy.

An intricate web of mystery, this historical thriller never quite achieves the level of suspense I expected. At times I found the story confusing, and I didn’t understand what St. Dominic’s list was or what it had to do with the story until halfway through the book. The lack of a good copy editor slowed the story’s pace. Readers with an interest in the struggle between the French and British in Canada or the early history of Australia should enjoy this book.