Mosaic Virus, by Carlos T. Mock, Floricanto Press, $24.95, 978-0915745-79-1 By Richard LaBonte from Books to Watch out For
It's 1983, and young Catholic priests are dying mysteriously. A concerned Vatican calls in hotshot Father Javier Barraza, an Argentinean-born Jesuit with a built-in disdain for his Church's more repressive dogmas - and more longing in his soul for a childhood sweetheart, now a very special FBI agent, than a priest of his stature ought to have - to investigate the viral epidemic decimating America's priesthood.
Part medical thriller and part Vatican expose (quite reminiscent of church-insider Andrew Greeley's many novels set in the shadowy world of Vatican politics, ambition, and ego), Mock's timely novel stitches together Catholic homophobia, AIDS conspiracy musings, and one particular Cardinal's thuggish self-interest, as the duo dig into decades of criminal cover-ups and deadly deceit - an investigation into the unleashing of a horrific "mosaic virus" that causes Barraza to question his Catholic faith.
AIDS and the Vatican intersect most imaginatively when, as characters, real-life flight attendant Gaetan Dugas, said to be Patient Zero of the AIDS epidemic, is seduced as a seminarian by Francis Cardinal Spellman, whose queer ways are the stuff of legendary lore. That's the kind of kinky heresy that gives this book its zip. Mock, at one time a practicing doctor, gets pretty detailed with medical facts and theoretical extrapolations; his story, brisk enough to carry readers over the expository bits, ends with the priest and the FBI agent flying to an unnamed destination with an antidote that could end an epidemic - until, in something of a cliffhanger, a plane - their plane? - Is shot down. Seems a sequel is in the works...
Travel website: The Pink Agenda. Several Blogs. Weekly newsletter, available upon request. Publications - Fiction: Borrowing Time: A Latino Sexual Odyssey - Floricanto Press 2003. Poetry: The Refined Savage Poetry Review - Refined Savage (more...)