This is an Amazon Vine review of "The Black Madonna".
Palestinian archaeologist Nazreem Hashrawi is Sophie Neveu, the dynamic one of the pair who drives the plot along. South-African Marcus Frey is Robert Langdon, the academic who specialises in arcane historical lore and has been dragged into a mystery he barely comprehends. They are chased around London, England; Altötting, Germany; various locations in Spain; the French railway system; and finally back to London for the denouement. Rather than Opus Dei, their stereotypical antagonists include Islamic fundamentalists (led by an Osama Bin-Laden figure), American Evangelical Fundamentalists and various factions within the Catholic Church.
The subject of all this running around? The mysterious and thoroughly ancient `Black Madonna' unearthed by Nazreem in the Gaza Strip: each of the sects has their own reasons for wanting this seminal piece of `idolatry'. Oh, and there's an on-off sparkle of potential romance between Nazreem and Marcus. And did I mention that all this is occurring under the benign surveillance of the British Intelligence Services?
This is a well-executed `bad book'. Echoing Dan Brown, the writing is clunky, formulaic and over-adorned with cliché. It seems that every corner turned is an excuse for one of the characters to indulge themselves (and us) with an undigested chunk of historical exposition. I was prepared to be quite irritated by all this when I realised that author Peter Millar just doesn't care. I'm sure his writing style is totally tongue-in-cheek, the saving grace being that all the rushing around and clumsy plot twists do in fact engage the reader's attention; and with Nazreem Hashrawi, the author's dream girl becomes, in part, the reader's too.
So this is a somewhat enjoyable exercise in pastiche and will fill a long train journey more than adequately.