Ave Maria

A Neil Baggio Suspense (Neil Baggio Series)

Fiction - Mystery - Sleuth
338 Pages
Reviewed on 10/14/2020
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Author Biography

Charles D'Amico is a husband, father, writer, and business owner. Having grown up in the Metro Detroit Area, he acknowledges much of his success to his upbringing and schooling at St. Mary's Prep in Orchard Lake. He graduated from Ball State University with a bachelor's degree, where he studied Criminology and Psychology. Charles is continuing to write, as well as publish other great authors through Blue Handle Publishing, LLC. He currently resides in Amarillo, TX.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Vincent Dublado for Readers' Favorite

Neil Baggio is back with another heart-stopping crime thriller adventure that will pit him against the world’s most powerful institution—the Catholic Church. In Charles D’Amico’s Ave Maria, Baggio is solicited by his high school alma mater, Orchard Lake Saint Mary’s, with his headmaster James “Glow” Glowacki calling him in the middle of the night. Glow asks him to investigate the mysterious death of a Polish exchange student, who was found hanged in his room. Suicide was ruled out as a motive. In the process of his investigation, Baggio discovers that the student’s death is traced to the involvement of the Catholic Church, and he questions a cardinal about a cover-up. Baggio is determined to get to the bottom of the truth, and his headmaster believes that his stubbornness is the only thing that will lead him to the answers.

Charles D’Amico has created a detective that may well find his rightful place in the canon of literary sleuths. What makes Baggio even more interesting as a detective character is the sarcasm in his thoughts whenever he is on a case. “I hope he doesn’t expect me to turn in my final paper from high school; it’s not my fault the dog ate it,” he thinks after receiving the unexpected call from his former headmaster. His tailing of Cardinal Kelley is among one of the most intense scenes that drive the story. Baggio is not a perfect detective, but he follows his own set of values and there are no sacred cows in his world, which is why he is perfect to conduct the investigation. If you are not a follower of the Neil Baggio Suspense Series, reading this book will likely make you a convert.

Tiffany Ferrell

Neil Baggio is a consultant for the FBI, making a name for himself when he captured notorious serial killer Franklin Cappelano. Currently in business with his friend Ken, the two make up Baggio and Chamberlain Inc. Everything is going smoothly until he gets an urgent call from the headmaster of his old high school. Upon arriving at St. Mary’s, Neil finds himself in the middle of a crime scene where a recently graduated Polish boy apparently committed suicide. The headmaster doesn’t believe the boy's death is a suicide and after checking out the scene of the crime, Baggio is convinced it wasn’t either. Deciding he needs to get to the bottom of this mystery, Neil enlists some FBI friends to help with the task. What he doesn’t expect is that the Catholic Church is obviously trying to cover the boy's death up and that they are on to him.

I really like the way that Charles D’Amico set up this narrative for Ave Maria. It definitely had that fun detective Dan Brown vibe to it, but more unique and with an almost comic edge. You really get to know the main character Neil as you step into his shoes when telling the story. He’s a very likable and relatable character and it’s intriguing to read the book from the main character's point of view. The other characters are equally interesting and well thought out. The plot itself is different from other crime books that I have read. I really like how Ave Maria has the church involved somehow in the crime and it’s Neil’s job to figure out what they are hiding. D’Amico has created a gripping crime mystery that keeps you on your toes right till the end. It’s a book I would definitely recommend to others. Also, I am looking forward to reading the author's other works.

Rabia Tanveer

Ave Maria: A Neil Baggio Suspense is the second novel in the Neil Baggio Series by Charles D'Amico. Neil Baggio was surprised when he received a call from Orchard Lake St. Mary’s High School. His beloved literature teacher, James “Glow” Glowacki, was now the headmaster of the high school, and he had a favor to ask. Andrew, an exchange student at the high school, was found dead. The police were ruling the case as a suicide, but Glow believed something was fishy. So, Neil picked up the case and started to dig deeper. However, the deeper he dug, the more baffling this new case became. All the clues pointed him towards the Catholic Church, but surprisingly, he found no connection. Someone was trying to sweep all the clues away before Neil could get to them. It was now up to Neil and his team to find them and solve this case before it was too late.

Ave Maria by Charles D'Amico is a hard-hitting story with a lot of poetic justice and karma. I loved the chase and the race against time. Neil was a hero that drove the plot and led it from the front. He was analytical, observant, and above all, smart. Neil understood the situation far better than I anticipated and I enjoyed his go-getter attitude the most. While he was my favorite character in the story, Nicolette became a close second. She was spunky and sassy; her attitude was sharp and gave Neil a run for his money. The action was relentless, the pace was fast, and the plot itself was brilliantly handled. The mystery behind Andrew’s death was smartly handled too. This is an intense yet entertaining novel.

Susan Sewell

A high school student is found dead, and the police have ruled it a suicide, but a skeptical headmaster asks a private investigator to uncover the truth in the sleuth mystery novel Ave Maria (A Neil Baggio Suspense) by Charles D'Amico. When Andrew is found dead in his Catholic school dorm room, private investigator Neil Baggio is contacted by the headmaster to determine whether or not he killed himself. Because the scene is so clean, neither the headmaster nor Neil believe Andrew died by his own hand. However, the Archdiocese has invoked a decree of silence regarding the affair, and no one will speak to Neil or his team of investigators. In the meantime, Andrew's mother, who worked at the school to pay his tuition, has been quickly moved to an undisclosed location by church officials, hindering any attempt to question her. With so few leads to follow, Neil's highly trained team scrambles to find a possible killer before all traces of Andrew's identity disappear. With the church blocking their every move and the clock racing against them, can Neil and his colleagues uncover the motive behind Andrew's death? And in the process, find out why the Catholic church is conspiring to keep Andrew's identity under wraps?

Ave Maria (A Neil Baggio Suspense) by Charles D'Amico is a suspenseful mystery novel that finishes against the rich backdrop of Poland. Brimming with soliloquies and backstories relating to the main character's life, the plot's elements of suspense and intrigue slowly build to ultimately reach an exciting and unexpected conclusion. It is an entertaining suspense novel that will interest those who enjoy sleuth mysteries based on secrets and conspiracies. For being the second book in a series, the story does fairly well, but I think it would enhance the reader's experience to read the thrilling first book, Veritas.

Christian Sia

Ave Maria: A Neil Baggio Suspense by Charles D’Amico is a compelling novel that will appeal to fans of sleuth and mystery. When Neil Baggio receives a call in the middle of the night from the headmaster of his old high school, James Glowacki, he is at a loss over what to think. Then, the headmaster tells him about the murder of Andrew, an exchange student from Poland. He was found hanging in his room and everyone believes it is suicide. But, Andrew isn’t the kind of person to commit suicide. Neil Baggio suddenly finds himself involved in an investigation that brings him in the crosshairs of the Catholic Church and that has him flying to Europe in pursuit of a lead. Can he uncover the truth about the murder before the truth gets buried?

Charles D’Amico has written a novel with a powerful hook, a premise that pulled me in immediately. The author immediately shows the link the protagonist has with St. Mary’s and this explains why the case becomes personal for him. The characters are well-developed and apart from Neil Baggio, I enjoyed following Nicolette Milewski, a fascinating character, and her cousin, Christian. The writing is powerful and the prose flows flawlessly. The author doesn’t miss strong moments of humor, like what Neil thinks when he receives the call from Glow. The pacing is fast. The conflict is deftly written and it is interesting how Neil challenges the Catholic Church. Ave Maria: A Neil Baggio Suspense features compelling characters, a strong plot, and it provides a wonderful reading experience for readers.

Ruffina Oserio

Ave Maria: A Neil Baggio Suspense by Charles D’Amico is a well-plotted and ingeniously narrated story that melds crime, mystery, and suspense, following the indefatigable detective Neil Baggio. It begins when the headmaster of his old high school calls Neil in the middle of the night. He has always been fond of St. Mary’s. James Glowacki tells him about the mysterious death of Andrew, a Polish exchange student. Andrew was found hanging in his room and it was immediately ruled out as suicide. The headmaster thinks differently, so Neil starts an investigation with very few clues and has to navigate a complex world where he even questions the probity of Catholic Church representatives. Can he uncover the face of the killer and bring the truth to light?

It is a well-written story with memorable characters and a solid plot. I loved the way Charles D’Amico writes motivation in the characters. For instance, Neil might have dismissed the case, but the request coming from a man he has known since high school, his literature teacher, and involving a murder committed against one of the students from his former alumni, wins his heart. The reader feels as if the protagonist is out to defend not just his love for St. Mary’s but the values of the school. The story is written in beautiful prose, and I enjoyed the descriptions and the dialogues. The handling of character is impeccable. Nicolette was one of my favorite characters. I also enjoyed the fact that the author weaves very interesting background information about the characters without veering off the plot points, and this makes it easier for readers to get acquainted with Neil Baggio, especially those who haven’t read the other works from the author. Ave Maria: A Neil Baggio Suspense is suspenseful, engaging, and fast-paced. It reads well as a standalone novel.

Emily-Jane Hills Orford

Neil Baggio is on another case. This one involves a student suicide which looks too clean to really be a suicide. It’s at his old high school and there are more questions than answers as his investigative team takes on the case to find out what really happened and why. Just when he thinks he’s finding the answers, more doors are closed, potential evidence mysteriously disappears, and people in the know clam up. The trail is quickly becoming cold as the case becomes more complicated with each new revelation. When it appears to involve the Catholic church and a powerful crime family in Poland, he begins to think he’s onto another Romeo and Juliet situation.

Charles D’Amico’s novel, Ave Maria: A Neil Baggio Suspense, provides all the excitement and adventure one would expect from a mystery thriller. Told in the first-person narrative from Neil’s point of view, the plot begins where the previous book in the series ended, with Neil visiting a man he put in prison. This provides the reader, especially those who may not have read the previous Neil Baggio suspense novels, with some comprehension of who Neil is and how he acquired his reputation for solving even the most complex crimes. As the plot develops, the unraveling mystery thickens as evidence disappears just as Neil and his team are about to uncover it. The characters are well developed, primarily through engaging dialogue. Although reading the previous Neil Baggio novels might help the reader understand the who’s who of this novel, overall this is an engaging read.

Pikasho Deka

Ave Maria: A Neil Baggio Suspense is a murder mystery thriller by author Charles D'Amico. Neil Baggio is a former FBI agent who runs a successful private investigative agency of his own with his partner Ken. After receiving a call from the headmaster of his former high school, Neil finds himself investigating a suicide case. Andrew Malinowski, a foreign exchange student from Poland and a high school senior at Orchard Lake St. Mary's, commits suicide by hanging himself in his room. Neil suspects foul play, and he takes it upon himself to figure out why. But he may have bitten off more than he can chew as the Catholic Church itself seems to be standing in the way of Neil and his team.

Riding on the strength of a plot that wouldn't look out of place in a Hitchcock movie, D'Amico's Ave Maria is a must-read for fans of murder mysteries and suspense thrillers. Although it starts a little slow for my taste, the narrative soon finds its groove as Neil and his team delve deeper into the case. The characters are lively, and the banter between Neil and his teammates make the narrative an engaging and refreshing experience. I was impressed with the climax, and I found the ending to be totally unexpected yet logically viable as it makes sense within the context of the story. Although Ave Maria is the second book in D'Amico's Neil Baggio Suspense series, it also works perfectly as a standalone.

Tammy Ruggles

Ave Maria: A Neil Baggio Suspense by Charles D'Amico is a riveting novel of mystery and suspense. This Neil Baggio offering has him trying to let go of a case, and talking to and about convicted serial killer Frank Cappelano again. The novel's focus and case have ties to the Catholic Church and its possible connection to the apparent suicide of an adolescent boy. The death of this student lights the fuse that has Baggio running after clues abroad, and he finds that it isn't easy going up against the Church. Baggio comes up against obstacle after obstacle, and you begin to wonder if he will ever get to the heart of the truth.

The strength of D'Amico's writing is his talent for storytelling, and this story doesn't disappoint. Its plot is intriguing and exciting, the Baggio character a little worse for wear but still as determined as ever to solve the boy's death. The author makes it easy to follow along and put yourself in the investigator's shoes, where you wonder what you would do if faced with the same case. The energetic dialogue helps drive the interesting plot along, and Baggio's character is appealing. Although I can appreciate the psychological ties/alluring mentor-consulting dynamic going on with Baggio and Cappelano, I felt that Baggio was capable of standing on his own and investigating without him, but it's just a personal opinion of mine. The dynamic is still a compelling one to explore and certainly takes nothing away from this story. Speaking of the story, it's such an engaging premise that it keeps you invested until the conclusion of the book. The supporting characters are likable, and I enjoy Baggio's convictions and courage in the face of such a powerful institution--the Catholic Church. Ave Maria: A Neil Baggio Suspense by Charles D'Amico is an exciting crime drama that will make you an instant Baggio fan.

K.C. Finn

Ave Maria is a work of fiction in the mystery, crime, adventure, and thriller sub-genres, and was penned by author Charles D'Amico. Written for adult reading audiences as part of the Neil Baggio suspense fiction series, these works are always suitable for a wide variety of readers due to moderate peril and violence. Fans of the series will be excited by the return of Baggio in the second work of the current four novels, and here we find our intrepid detective treading the murky waters of the Catholic Church. An apparent suicide leads him in, but the trouble that Neil makes for himself within this conspiracy could make it very hard indeed to get out again.

Author Charles D'Amico never ceases to please with this series, delivering a dynamic hero who can turn his hand to any situation and root out the truth. One of the things which struck me about this work was the tightly-wound nature of the conspiracy, and how the author keeps readers hooked even when it seems like there are no leads at all. We are forced into deep detail mode, drinking in every nugget of vivid description and slick dialogue in the hopes that we, like Neil, can pick up a clue. I also really enjoyed the fact that this novel was markedly different from Veritas, offering the same level of thrills but with a totally different plot construction. Overall, I would highly recommend Ave Maria as an accomplished work of mystery fiction that fans of the current series will not want to miss.