Z Book of the Month


Review: The Madonna Files

Author: Stephen K Ryan

Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press

Zebra Rating – 4 Stripes

Reviewed by Ralph Peluso

Stephen K. Ryan lives with his wife Tania and their children Andrew and Meredith, in Alexandria. Stephen appears to maintain a very active lifestyle. Between running a wealth management advisory firm, involvement in the unique and time-consuming hobby of ocean sailing and dedication to his online faith-based magazine, it is a miracle he had time to create such a masterful tale. In the book’s dedication, Stephen expressed sincere appreciation to his wife for her capable handling of the household as he “found time to bang away at the key board.” His work is a true team effort of the heart and home.

In “The Madonna Files”, Stephen cleverly crafted many of the essential elements of his personal life into the plot line constructions.  The use of large and small water crafts, the description of the District of Columbia and Annapolis, MD area marinas and waterways will peak the attention of most local readers.  He also found a way to bake into the story the advanced analytical tools used by stock market portfolio and wealth managers.  Stephen’s personal drive for helping people find and maintain their faith based moral compass is also evident throughout his novel. The author provides an unexpected but pleasant journey through the battles of good versus many dangerous evils. I enjoyed very much how he brought his personal goals into his tale.

Stephen’s work though is somewhat challenging in that he asks the reader to absorb another take on Armageddon using several intricate and complex story lines. At the center of the plot is a small cadre of tangentially related characters. This mighty combination of diverse characters eludes an almost Marvel Comic superhero stage. With their powerful sway and Mensa level intelligence, they control and significantly influence everything from the global financial markets, to the Roman Catholic Church and Vatican politics, and nuclear negotiation and confrontation amongst the world’s superpowers.  This may be a lot for the average reader to digest.

So, I put my suspension of disbelief in hyper drive and simply let the characters provide the navigation.

At the center is a Catholic priest who managed to transition from leaving his bride, to be at the altar, to become a Vatican insider, with direct access to the Pope. This alone is a remarkable feat but to do so in the relatively short time frame in which he did had me doing a bit more fact checking that I would have liked.

However, as the story unfolded it did maintain my interest, probably because I am Roman Catholic and have an emotional connection to the “Da Vinci Code” type of intrigue.  The author assumes the reader knows more about the Catholic miracles and mysteries than perhaps they do.  I was lost at times; and I survived twelve years of strict Catholic theology and dogmas, including the Lady of Fatima miracles.

I would have liked to have seen the author spend more time educating the reader on the background elements in the plot and less time repeating things that had been previously stated. This may have created an easier flow of the story.

Overall the plot development did pull me in, so much so that when I looked up, I was done.  The author completed filling in the pieces to the puzzle ending with a magnificent confrontation, as the world teetered on the edge of a nuclear holocaust. Of course, the good in humanity once again prevails in its struggle with evil.

Overall I recommend the book; readers will enjoy its twists, turns and surprises!








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