Murder and suspense in the realms of archaeology and religion. Since The Da Vinci Code this genre has exploded. Glenn Meade’s latest book is a superior example, well-researched and tightly written.
Jack Cane is an archaeologist working at Qmran in Israel, the site of the controversial Dead Sea Scrolls. He is still mourning the death of his parents twenty years ago. They and their Bedouin driver were killed in a horrific road accident on their way to Jerusalem with a newly discovered scroll which they believed contained previously unknown information about the life and times of Jesus Christ. It has been assumed that the scroll was destroyed when the vehicle’s fuel tank exploded.
Jack had also been in the vehicle, but had been sitting in the open back of the pickup and had been flung out at the critical moment. Two Catholic priests who had also been working on the dig visited him in hospital and told him that they arrived at the crash scene immediately afterwards but had been unable to save his parents or the scroll.
In the present, in the Vatican, a new Pope is being elected. The choice finally falls on an American, John Becket, a saintly man who very quickly announces his intention to make sensational changes to the administration.
Jack is now working on the dig with Professor Donald Green, a colleague of his father who has been his mentor since the death of his parents. There is great excitement at the dig when Jack uncovers another scroll. They take it to Green’s tent. It will have to be unrolled in laboratory conditions, but they manage to make out a few words which talk about a Messiah – a disappointing Messiah who failed to cure the sick and travelled to Dora in the north of Israel (where Jesus Christ is not known to have visited). In Dora he was arrested and executed on the orders of the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. They realise they have made an earth-shattering discovery. It is nearly dawn and Jack and Green have been too excited to sleep. Jack goes for a walk to calm himself, and meets Green’s beautiful niece, Yasmin, who is also working on the dig. During their absence, Green is murdered and the scroll stolen. The Israeli police arrive and the Inspector in charge is Lela Raul, whom he had known well as a teenager during the time of his parents’ death. Despite Lela’s insistence that he could never be a murderer, Jack becomes the principal suspect.
The action switches location frequently and the chapters are very short. The large cast of characters includes a very rich criminal who is the son of the Bedouin driver killed with Jack’s parents, a number of cardinals in the Vatican who seem to be engaged in various forms of skulduggery, and the sinister agents of Mossad, who very soon want a piece of the action. The most remarkable is John Becket, now Pope Celestine, who has his own very special agenda. This is a real page-turner, and I suspect the Vatican won’t like it.