I found “The Secret Supper” on a remainder table in a shopping mall.
Translated into English from Javier Sierra’s Spanish by Alberto Manguel it was published by Pocket Books in 2004. (380 pp)
Milan, 1497: Leonardo is completing his Last Supper.
There is no Holy Grail or Eucharist Bread in the painting, the artist has painted himself into the scene with his back turned toward Jesus? The apostles, shockingly, are portraits of well-known heretics — and none of them are depicted with halos. Father Agostino Leyre is an Inquisitor from Rome and an important member of the Secretariat of Keys of the Pontifical States. Expert in cryptography and theology and has been charged with the task of finding the truth about this piece of art. He narrates the story as an old man, from his retreat in Egypt,
Yes, it is all about Leonardo da Vinci and the Last Supper. It is about codes and intrigue and the Inquisition. It is about Cathars and Catholicism and conspiracies. It has murders and intimidation and social comment.
The mystery Seirra has inserted into “The Last Supper” is credible and compelling. In retrospect I can see a few threads of the plot on which I shall need to do my own research. Yet any move from historical fact to fictional invention is difficult to spot. Despite the major differences in writing style I am reminded of the historical authenticity of Dorothy Dunnett’s work.
One thing it isn’t is another “Da Vinci Code”! Well written, well plotted and with genuine historical and artistic research at its core, this is the novel Dan Brown wanted to write but his effort fell short. While there are similarities in that the Cathars and their beliefs are central to both stories, the whole of “The Secret Supper” is set in da Vinci’s time.
It may be difficult to find a copy on the shelves now but it should be available online somewhere. Find it. You wont regret the effort. I rate it a very readable 5/5