The Secret Heir

Fiction - Thriller - General
282 Pages
Reviewed on 12/29/2022
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Keith Mbuya for Readers' Favorite

Trouble always seemed to find its way into Stefania DiMaggio’s life. When Stefania receives an invitation from her cousin, a captain in the Brazilian navy, she hopes it is for pleasure. But her cousin informs her about a plane crash incident involving an alleged Vatican priest. The Vatican denied having any connections to or even knowing the deceased priest. Traveling documents and a thumb drive with encrypted information were the only possessions found on the deceased priest. Stefania reaches out to her long-time friend Thomas, the Duke of Radcliffe, to help her solve the developing puzzle. While chasing clues, they find themselves treading a dangerous path that puts their relationship, lives, and more on the line. It appears the Vatican, the Russian SVR, MI6, Asian businessmen, and a British royal – who is close to Thomas – are all involved in the case. What exactly are they all up to? Get C. J. Toca’s The Secret Heir to learn how it unfolds.

C. J. Toca’s The Secret Heir is a must-read for lovers of a gripping, action-packed crime thriller laced with an evolving tale of conspiracy, blackmail, espionage, murder, power, secrets, and so much more. Toca forges a super intriguing plot for this story, keeping me on edge with thrills, adventure, suspense, exciting action, and ingenious plot twists. He brings the scenes to life with vivid depictions, making them tremendously dramatic. Reading the book felt like watching a Dwayne Johnson action movie complete with a robust touch of humor. Greschenko and Stefania’s banter left my ribs sore, and it got better with Thomas’ refreshing quips. Toca displays the character traits of a wonderfully developed cast, making the chemistry between the characters palpable and strengthening my connection to them. Greschenko is a sophisticated, well-informed, ruthless, bossy agent that is used to and knows her way around trouble. Stefania, on the other hand, is intelligent, inquisitive, and super observant, with a knack for solving problems. I loved The Secret Heir; it’s a magnificent story, and I’m looking forward to laying my hands on more of Toca’s work.

Essien Asian

Stefania DiMaggio is invited to assist a friend to decipher a mystery found on a downed Brazilian plane. She comes across a coded message in a case belonging to a dead clergyman who supposedly never existed. The plot thickens when it becomes evident that several intelligence agencies are after what this man was carrying and have deployed some of their best operatives to recover it. Stefania teams up with her friend Thomas as they embark on a race against time to prevent an international conspiracy capable of claiming millions of lives. Unbeknownst to them, others will stop at nothing to ensure this evil plot succeeds, even if it means permanently eliminating a feisty Italian snoop and her British partner. The clock is ticking in C. J. Toca's The Secret Heir.

Church politics and international conspiracies clash in this intriguing tale. The story is easy to read once you understand how C. J. Toca hides clues; even a perceptive reader would need to exercise a great deal of patience to connect the dots. The way Stefania and Svetlana interact at every opportunity is a portent of possible love between the principal characters, spicing up what is already a combustible mix. The conversations between the characters are easy to follow and the pace maintains a high tempo from start to end, completely immersing readers in this dark world of guns, hidden codes, and dead bodies. The Secret Heir ingeniously combines classic cold war espionage with modern-day sleuthing. I enjoyed reading this book.

Alma Boucher

The Secret Heir by C. J. Toca sees Stefania’s cousin hand her an encrypted thumb drive in a watertight plastic tube found in the possessions of a mysterious priest from the crash of the Sao Paulo Flight 221. The Vatican denies knowing this priest and nobody else seems to know him either. With the help of Stefania’s friend, Thomas, they find a set of coordinates on the drive. The location is in Buttermilk Falls, and on their way there, a red pickup truck almost hits them. Stefania and Thomas find a body at Buttermilk Falls and suspect the driver of the pickup is involved. Thomas asks his friend to check the number plates of the pickup truck for an address. On arrival, Thomas and Stefania are held at gunpoint. They must figure out who this mysterious priest was and why somebody is trying to kill them. They travel the world looking for answers.

The Secret Heir by C. J. Toca is a fast-paced and action-packed thriller. The plot is terrific, and the twists and turns kept me guessing. The suspense kept me on the edge of my seat; it was a real page-turner, and I could not put it down. The story is incredibly well-written with a strong cast of characters who traveled an exciting world which I enjoyed. They were well-developed, and each had a unique personality. I hoped that Stefania and Thomas would be romantically involved; they fitted together perfectly and complemented each other. The events were descriptive, and it was easy to imagine the scenery. I did not see the major twists coming; they were big surprises to me.

Vincent Dublado

The Secret Heir by C.J. Toca is the kind of thriller that grabs your attention. Stefania DiMaggio is the type of journalist who is at the wrong place at the wrong time, but she is used to it. A visit to her cousin Hércules in Leblon gives her access to information about an attaché case bearing the seal of the Holy See with a sophisticated lock. The case contains a thumb drive sealed in a watertight plastic tube and a set of keys. With Stefania’s connections, Hércules wants her to figure out if the priest who perished in a plane crash and who owned the attaché case was involved in something confidential for the Vatican. As the papal nuncio denies knowledge and the Vatican pleads ignorance, Stefania, with the help of an old flame, is about to be thrown into a life-threatening situation that will take her to different parts of the world.

Fast-paced but subtle, The Secret Heir is sure to please thriller fans who love stories like Angels and Demons. C.J. Toca’s keen attention to detail makes the storyline even more intense, as Stefania uses her connections to decode a mystery with religious undertones and papal intrigue. Nowadays, there no longer seem to be any sacred cows as even a revered institution like the Vatican becomes a fascinating plot source for a thriller filled with terror, blackmail, and a growing body count. The cynics and believers can take a step toward a common ground as both would find this book thrilling and entertaining. This story is not anti-religion. It is a pure, intense thriller that doesn’t affect the mystery and enigma of the Catholic faith. It’s a must-read.