The Secret Supper


Javier Sierra


Mystery / Thriller


Date Reviewed:

June 12, 2007

he book cover proclaims that The Secret Supper was a bestseller, and no doubt it was a bestseller, riding on the coattails of The DaVinci Code. But judged on its own merits, this novel failed to impress me. It has many flaws.

The story is told by Agostino Leyre, a Catholic priest in the Inquistion (now there is an unlikely hero!). The Vatican has been receiving mysterious letters from Milan from an individual who calls himself "The Soothsayer". The Soothsayer is upset, it seems that Leonardo DaVinci has been painting a giant mural of the Last Supper, and the painting is abomination! Jesus does not have a halo in the painting. The Holy Grail is not on the dinner table. Da Vinci has used his own face as a model for the disciple Judas Thaddeus (St. Jude) - and in the painting, Judas Thaddeus has his back toward Christ. It is an interesting premise, but Sierra's execution of the plot falls short.

Leyre arrives at Milan, and asks a few questions. He observes the painting. His primary goal is to discover who the Soothsayer is. The Soothsayer has written a clue about his identity in one of his notes to the Vatican, but Leyre can not figure it out. In fact, despite being an ace detective, Leyre is surprisingly inept at investigating mysteries. (If you want to find out who the Soothsayer is, why not enquire which monk sent a bunch of messages to Rome? It's not like message sending was common occurrence back then.) Leyre solicits the help of pretty much any monk he meets. Leyre only meets with DaVinci once. Sierra's portrait of DaVinci is not very convincing. DaVinci is supposed to be a genius, but mostly he seems taunt people - boasting about secret symbols hidden in the Last Supper painting that no one will ever figure out. Unfortunately, the secret clues in the painting are all invented by Sierra - Sierra invents individuals who DaVince used as models as he painted each disciple, and Sierra also invents an apostolic virtue for each disciple, for example:

Bartholomew Mirabilis He Who is Miraculous

James the Less Venustus He Who is Full of Grace

Andrew Temperator He Who Prevents.

and so on for all 12 apostles.

Sierra then tells us that these apostolic virtues carry the secret message. Now is that something you could have discovered from studying the painting? Of course not. I could just as easily have assigned my own apostolic virtues to each man, such as:

Bartolomew Sillyus He Who is Silly

James the Less Ketchupus He Who is Fond of Ketchup

Andrew Icy He Who is Cold


My secret message would spell out S-K-I-P T-H-I-S B-O-O-K.

One big flaw with this book is that Leyre is absent from most of the action. The novel starts out in first person (as the aged Leyre, living as hermit in an Egyptian cave, writes his memoirs to reveal this huge secret) - but as the novel progesses, Sierra frequently switches to omniscient third-person narration to describe events about which Leyre knows nothing about. This jumping around hurts the novel. No character can really be described as the main protagonist. DaVinci is rarely on stage. An apprentice to DaVinci, the painter Luini, has some chapters devoted to him (I don't think Leyre and Luini ever meet, so these chapters are obviously not told in Leyre's first person point of view.)- but Luini says his lines and then ebbs away again. Near the end of the novel we meet some Cathars, a group of people who believe in an alternate form of Christianity, but these heretics don't remain the center of attention long, either.

The mysteries that are revealed in this book are not nearly as fun as the DaVinci Code. The characters are flat and undeveloped, the plot lacks suspense, the narrative lacks pacing. Remember my secret message, and SKIP THIS BOOK.