The Curse of Sacerdozio
By: Sharon Kurack
With mystery, conspiracy and murder, trial attorney Glen Aaron’s The Curse of Sacerdozio is indeed a surprising page-turner. Surprising because normally my reviews have been with sci-fi/fantasy titles while this one clearly is not. This is the first installment of The Supremes series, which means there are more conspiracies and mysteries to come! As a first installment, The Curse of Sacerdozio has the daunting task of setting up the author’s pace, style and tone that can either make or break a series. After binging this book, it can safely be said that a continuation of the series is a must. Let’s delve deeper into the judicial/political rabbit hole that Aaron so intricately sets up, shall we?
As somewhat of a literature aficionado, I can say that whenever a book offers a forward, prologue or epilogue you should really, in fact, read it lest you miss some extremely important context that sets up or supports the story. The Prologue in this book is no different as it is written as Tommy Jon, one of our main protagonists, who lends his words to Aaron. Through this explanation, we find that not only is the story not necessarily the author’s, but also that it may be true. This establishes the author’s voice as that of a storyteller as this portion is written in the first person. Are the words to follow the Prologue true, but with some of the names changed? I certainly wonder about this specific question from page 1 to page 275.
As I read through the first paragraph of the Prologue, immediately I picked up on a particularly useful and reader-catching trait of any author: attention to detail. Throughout the book, Aaron displays a knack for describing and creating emotion in any event. Where music would be a catalyst in manipulating the audience into what emotion to feel, Aaron does this simply with his words. How he does this is beyond what a vast vocabulary arsenal of adjectives can do; he uses knowledge and detail of history and facts, which perhaps stems from his law background.
Our main protagonist, Tommy Jon, is Jicarilla Apache and the ultimate underdog. He grew up on the reservation and is remarkably intelligent, with the ability to retain large amounts of data/info and utilize it. This skill helped him forge his path to Harvard Law, where he thrived despite being thrown into white academics and judicial culture. As the voice of Tommy Jon points out, his circumstance (getting off the reservation) with the intent on thriving successfully was an extremely rare one with the odds not always being in favor. However, he gets as far as the clerkship under the extremely conservative Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) Judge Anton Sacerdozio, along with Catherine Welch and Tim Bulgari.
There are a lot of “players” in the story that unfolds, but Tommy Jon is indeed our main protagonist. However, Aaron takes time and care to delve deeper into each individual as well, shedding some insight on who he or she is, what motivates him or her and his or her significance to the story. This attention to detail reflects Aaron’s law side, as at times feels as though you are reading an affidavit. Without the details; however, I believe there would have been a huge absence of a buildup for dramatic effect.
Almost immediately we find out that Catherine and Tommy Jon were once (still) an item and that Tommy and Judge Sacerdozio were at constant odds. To further set up these dynamics, the author describes not only the process/daily routine of a SCOTUS clerk (specifically Sacerdozio’s), but also goes as far as to describe the cases they were researching for the judge. Ironically, both involved the United States with Native American lands and the US’s responsibilities. Clearly, the judge takes the meaning of the Constitution one way (or is biased) while Tommy Jon takes the opposite. Further diving in, we find Catherine to be pregnant out of wedlock by Tommy. If that isn’t the proverbial slap in the conservative Justice’s face, Catherine gets an abortion and we then see the darker side of Sacerdozio and a mystery that unravels like a DaVinci Code movie.
But that isn’t even the major plot point! It’s when Justice Sacerdozio is found face down and drowned in one of the hot spring’s mineral water pools at his annual retreat that we realize we’re in the middle of a murder mystery shrouded by religious conspiracy! At first, we see the feds pass his death off as a heart attack, but as the web unravels it becomes clear that the judge was murdered with plenty of suspects to list. However, further down the rabbit hole of Washington, DC shows us that one suspect in mind is the easiest to charge: Tommy Jon, himself. With a political and social justice flair, we watch the trial to prove Tommy Jon’s guilt or innocence through the colorful dialogue on the defense, which also hopes to prove the conspiracy of secret religious groups and their attempt to gain an edge in the legislative and judicial branches of the United States government. Add in the local law enforcement as well as the aid of an Apache named Rio and the party becomes lively as the story begins to unravel, with justice eventually being served.
Although the book’s Prologue begins in the first person point of view as Tommy Jon, the majority of the book is told in the third person omniscient. Where I had originally questioned the reasoning behind the POV change, now I find it necessary; Tommy Jon was recounting his story to us, but Glen Aaron was putting the words to the paper in a physical form, perhaps changing some names to “protect the innocent.” The author is extremely detailed and thorough in the explanations of certain laws quoted, which is helpful especially when you are not well educated on many laws surrounding United States-Native American relations. As for the characters, Aaron does a phenomenal job giving us background information, setting up the intricate spider web of the story. After the climax of the book resolves, we are still given a glimpse of the good that Tommy Jon and Catherine do and how they’ve come out stronger than when they had started.
One main critique; however, is that at times the author tends to switch tenses from present to past. Granted, this is common when recounting a story, and it hardly distracts the reader from the main event. The tense shift reminds me of reading an affidavit, as though the witness was right in front of me, telling the story. What might make that technique work better is if the book was written as a screenplay. Therefore, as previously stated, because of the riveting plot and descriptive wording the tense change is a minor critique.
Throughout the book, I was constantly questioning each person’s motives, as well as writing down questions about the various secret religious orders that seem hell bent on influencing the judicial system. I found myself especially glued to the story during the trial of Tommy Jon, as the line of questioning was so dramatic and unconventional as the defense lawyer brought to light the existence of these secret societies.
All in all, if you’re looking for a book written as a recount of a murder case with a flair for detail in the law and court proceedings, I highly suggest The Curse of Sacerdozio. Normally, this isn’t my genre, but I found the fast paced, no-nonsense style a page turner. If you look hard enough, you may even learn a bit about United States law that you may know have known previously. After reading The Curse of Sacerdozio, I’m inspired to look into the United States laws regarding Native Americans, perhaps to even help educate others like myself who know next to nothing. Amazing read, and I look forward to the next in the series.