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The Empress Holds The Key takes the reader on an exciting journey of discovery where the stakes are high, the rewards great, but where the price of failure is oblivion. It is a quest for the ultimate prize in archaeology – a holy relic that has mysteriously disappeared from the pages of history.

The story begins in the ruins of a cottage destroyed by bushfire in the Blue Mountains in Australia, visits many countries, and explores intriguing chapters of the past. These include the reign of Akhenaten – the heretic king of ancient Egypt, the time of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, the terror of the Inquisition, the fall of the Knights Templar and the death camps of war ravaged Europe.

Locations, such as exclusive London auction houses, the monuments of Egypt, a forgotten mass grave in Austria, the notorious tango clubs of Buenos Aires and a remote village in Papua New Guinea, add colour to the journey, which reaches its dramatic conclusion at the hidden tomb of a legendary African king in the highlands of Ethiopia.  

The Empress Holds The Key weaves fact and fiction into an adventure of epic proportions as it follows the lives of a handful of diverse individuals tied together by destiny and fate. Marcus Carrington QC, criminal barrister and amateur archaeologist, finds his life abruptly altered when he meets Jana Gonski, an Australian Federal Police Officer on the trail of a suspected Nazi war criminal.

When Carrington’s wife and daughter are killed by terrorists in Egypt, he is irresistibly drawn into the quest.  With the help of journalist Jack Rogan, they unravel an intricate web of intrigue and greed spanning more than half a century. Secret hoards of Nazi gold and Swiss bank accounts belonging to holocaust victims implicate Sir Eric Newman, who is accused of war crimes and sent to trial. His daughter, Dr Rosen, a famous healer and philanthropist, comes to terms with her father’s Nazi past and joins the quest.  

A unique exhibit is tendered in evidence during Sir Eric’s trial and at long last gives up its secrets, pointing the way to a lost relic, hidden from the princes of the Church by the Knights Templar some 700 years ago. This holy relic has a profound secret of its own that has Rome trembling with fear. Cardinal Brandauer and his fanatical Ethiopian priest, Habakkuk, use all the might and influence of the Vatican to prevent this shocking find from threatening the very foundations of Christianity. Meanwhile, Sheikh Omar, the founder and spiritual leader of a radical Muslim terrorist group, is also lusting after the holy relic, which he sees as a source of immense power. A ruthless, western-educated Egyptian he is intelligent, embittered and determined to succeed at all cost.

This self-styled Defender of the Faith must face his nemesis at the very moment the object of his life’s work is finally within his grasp. Caught up by twists of chance and circumstance, Benjamin Krakowski, holocaust survivor and celebrated composer, discovers his true identity buried in the recesses of Sir Eric’s dark past. Honouring his newly-discovered-grandfather’s wish, he sets out to return the holy relic to where it belongs – a secret hiding place in darkest Africa– out of reach of those who merely seek its legendary power, or want to deny the truth.

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The Empress Holds the Key begins in 1944 with the scene where two Jewish boys were taken and murdered by high-ranking Nazi officers. A picture of this gruesome event falls into the hands of Jack Rogan and this ignites a quest to identify and prosecute this war criminal… and something else… but nobody knows exactly what yet. Clue upon clue is uncovered as they go deeper into the mystery of the unknown officer in the picture, who carried a most strange violin. From Nazis to the Holocaust to Egypt, back to the legend of King Solomon and the Knights Templar, we are taken on this quest to find something that will not be clear until the last part of the story. A relic that could ruin Christianity and the Roman Catholic Church? Something the Templars protected and died for…

Gabriel Farago is a fine writer who can weave several story lines and make them come together in a satisfying conclusion. The history satisfied my fascination with forbidden and hidden knowledge. In The Empress Holds the Key, we are given clues and trivia galore, and you must not try to make sense of it all right away, but instead allow the author to take you on an adventure until all the answers are found. Characterization is wonderful. Jack Rogan does not dominate the story, and I thoroughly enjoyed Jana Gonski and the other supporting characters. Farago will take you inside the minds of terrorists and criminals and the mystery underlying everything will keep you turning pages to see where it’s all leading. And you won’t be disappointed. This is a well-written book that you can look forward to reading every time you put it down… if you can put it down. Highly recommended.

~Reviewed by Eeva Lancaster for Readers’ Favorite