A captivating spy story… very well written and constructed, with well-drawn characters.
- Courier Mail

A fast-paced and thrilling read
- West Australian

A provocative book in which every sort of dogma is turned on its head
- Sunday Mail

The Omega Scroll - Adrian d'Hagé

A Dead Sea Scroll has lain undisturbed in a cave near Qumran for nearly two thousand years. The Omega Scroll contains both a terrible warning for civilisation and the coded number the Vatican fears the most. The Pope's health is failing and the Cardinal Secretary of State, the ruthless Lorenzo Petroni, has the keys to St Peter within his grasp. Three things threaten to destroy him: Cardinal Giovanni Donnelli has started an investigation into the Vatican bank; journalist Tom Schweiker is looking into Petroni's past; and the brilliant Dr Allegra Bassetti, one of the world’s foremost authorities on archaeological DNA,  is piecing together fragments of the Omega Scroll.  While they fight for their lives in a deadly race for the scroll, the Vatican will stop at nothing to keep the prophecy hidden.

At the CIA's headquarters in Virginia, Mike McKinnon suspects a number of missing nuclear suitcase bombs are connected to the warning in the Omega Scroll.

In the Judean Desert a few more grains of sand trickle from the wall of a cave.  The  countdown for civilization has begun.

Research for The Omega Scroll

Looking like an Italian on my balcony in Falerna

I consider research to be crucial, and when I decided to write The Omega Scroll, I moved to Falerna Scalo.  It is a quaint little village in southern Italy on the Tyrrhenian Sea, on the instep of the boot, not far from Sicilia.  The village folk were delightful. It mattered not a jot to them that I was unpublished – the word went around quickly – there was an Australian author in their midst.  On a Saturday night, Bar Charley, the village’s only pub, would be packed as they cheered on AC Milan or Juventus.  I felt very privileged to be accepted into their circle.

As far as possible, with all my novels, I have followed this practice of living with the people I’m writing about so as to soak up the culture and atmosphere.  I also read widely (almost exclusively non-fiction, so as not to be influenced by the ideas of other fiction writers), and in researching The Omega Scroll, one book in particular  caught my eye: Torregreca: A World in Southern Italy by Ann Cornelisen.  Published in 1969, it was re-released in 2002 and is still available.  It’s a wonderful book and Cornelisen gives the reader an insight into the world of the southern Italians – ‘superstition, poverty and prejudice on the one hand, and on the other a passionate, transcendent determination to live.’   For several years, Cornelisen lived in the mountains south of Naples in the mediaeval town she gave the


pseudonym Torregreca.  In her words, she was ‘a Protestant, independent-minded woman in a male-dominated, Catholic, tradition-bound Italian town.’  She lived amongst the people – ‘shepherds and shopkeepers, peasants and padroni, Christian Democrats and Communists, the Bishop in his palace, nuns in Bishop in his palace, nuns in their convent, grand ladies in their salons, black-shawled mothers, grandmothers [nonnas] and children crowded into one-room hovels along with their animals – all rich and poor alike, fiercely alive.’

In keeping with the mores of the 60s, Cornelisen’s pseudonym for the town protected, the identity and all the foibles of the people whom she had come to know and love.  I was determined to find this place, so armed with nothing other than a map, my military training, and a very rough idea of where it was, I set off in my Peugeot 307.  For days, with snow chains in the boot, I combed the mountains of Basilicata to no avail.  I was  about to give up when I saw a sign at a railway station: Grassano - Garaguso - Tricarico.  Tricarico? Torregreca? I wondered.  As I drove up into the mountains again, the twisting, turning narrow road began to match Cornelisen’s description of her own

Ann Cornelisen

journey all those years before when she had been picked up by an old nun driving a battered World War II jeep; and as I crested a mountain, there it was!  The Norman tower near the top piazza and the Bishop’s palace matched exactly the photographs in Cornelisen’s book.  ‘In southern Italy on the ‘instep of the boot’, the little town of Tricarico had stood for centuries, battered but unbowed, perched high on the side of a hill off the ancient Appian Way.’

In The Omega Scroll’s Tricarico, Allegra Bassetti, who is to lose her faith when she is raped by Cardinal Lorenzo Petroni, is undergoing her novitiate in the little convent of San Fortunato on the outskirts of the town. She is able to visit her family just six times a year on the last day of every second month: ‘The climb through the gullies was steep but at the top it merged on to the cobblestones of an alley where a cacophony of sound echoed off the dirty walls of the houses.  A dozen radios were tuned, or more likely not tuned, to the only station that

My snow-covered Peugeot 307 in Tricarico

reached these parts and the crackling blare from the old speakers mixed with the cackling of chickens being shooed by Nonnas in ubiquitous black.  An argument had broken out in a house a little further up and the screams of abuse from a wife of thirty years, amid allegations of her husband’s lust for the much younger wife next door rose above the cries of the children, animals and the rattling of pots and pans. Southern Italy at dusk.’

At its core, there is great beauty in Catholicism, but throughout history, the corridors of power in the Vatican have been tainted by corruption and criminality – especially in the Vatican Bank and The Omega Scroll takes us back to 1978 – the year of three Popes, and a very strong case that Pope John Paul I (previously Albino Luciano, the Patriarch of Venice) was murdered.  There were good reasons.  Several cardinals, including the Cardinal Secretary of State, Jean-Marie Villot who was suspected of being at the heart of John Paul’s assassination, were members of the notorious P2 Freemasons Lodge – a practice forbidden in Catholicism.  John Paul 1 was about to

Tricarico – high in the mountains of Basilicata

open an investigation into the criminal activities of the Vatican Bank, and he had also written a paper which opposed the Catholic Church’s ban on contraception.  God did not want a Filipino woman, with a husband who demanded sex and was living below the poverty line with 12 children, to have any more.

But it is the ancient Omega Scroll itself, which contains the Magdalene Numbers, the origin of DNA and the prophecy of cataclysm that most threatens Cardinal Petroni’s quest to gain the keys to Peter, uncovering the lies that have been kept from Catholics for hundreds of years, and it is a secret that must be maintained no matter the cost.