As most of you know, the book reviews that I write for this blog are mostly for books that I’ve bought or Kim has gotten for me. However, today is my very first review of an ARC! Known as an advance reading copy, these books are given out for people to review before the book is published. Based on the publisher’s description, I was very interested in reading this book. I throughly enjoyed other comparable books, such as The DaVinci Code and other novels by Tom Clancy. In short, I couldn’t wait to give it a try.
The story begins with a tragic car accident on a desert road near Jerusalem, where an archeologist couple, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Crane, are killed and two teenagers riding with them severely injured. Additionally, their driver, a local Bedu man named Mr. Malik is killed, along with two occupants of an army truck that struck the Cranes’ car. A mysterious scroll that the Cranes uncovered in a recent dig that was being transported in their vehicle is presumed lost in the ensuing car fire. Twenty years later, we are again present at the site of the accident, this time following Jack Crane, one of the teenagers of the crash whose parents were the ones killed. The other survivor is Lela Raul, who was working with the Crane family on the dig and became close friends with Jack. Currently, Jack continues the work of his parents, digging in similar sites to the ones he grew up on and uncovering various ancient artifacts. He maintains a small gravesite near the accident site as a memorial to his parents.
At the same time, we are introduced to John Beckett, a cardinal that is elected to the position of Pope after the previous pope’s death. He is a dark horse candidate, brought in at the last second to put a halt to a deadlock in voting amongst the college of cardinals. No one expected him to win, and what happens after his assention to the Papacy is even more astounding: he orders that all Church documents and secrets be made public. Every record that the Church holds in its secret archives are ordered to be dug out and made public. Beckett believes he is turning the Church back to its roots of a meager beginning, more of an open congregation as Jesus would have wanted. However, Beckett has his own secret, one that if revealed would devastate not only the Church, but any hope he would have to hold on to his position as Pope.
Meanwhile, Jack is elated to have found a mysterious scroll in a recent dig that threatens to turn the entire religious world on its head with a revelation about Jesus himself. However, before he can share it with the world, death again makes an appearance, with the sudden murder of Professor Donald Green, the head of the site that Jack digs on. Additionally, the scroll is stolen. Jack again meets Lela after he finds that she is currently an Israeli police detective, assigned to investigate the murder. Lela informs Jack that he is currently the main suspect. Jack decides to try to escape the dig site and investigate the scroll disappearance on his own. He enacts the help of Green’s niece, Yasmin, as he tracks the scroll to a small church with a mysterious priest. This is just the beginning of Jack’s journey, as he links up with Lela again to chase down the scroll and decipher its contents. Additionally, he must dodge the attacks of Hassan Malik, out to avenge his father’s death in the car accident that killed Jack’s parents. He misguidedly blames Jack and his family for the accident. Will Jack and Lela be able to survive this barrage of attacks and suspicion? Will Pope Beckett’s secret ever come to light? Will the scroll’s contents ever be understood?
First off, I have to give Meade a ton of props for juggling so many storylines and keeping them straight. The way he intertwines the threads and reveals the elaborate plot that runs throughout is amazing. The seemingly separate storylines come together at the end for an explosive finish, and I was rapidly turning pages at the end trying to finish as fast as I could. Additionally, speaking of fast pacing, the novel was structured in a way that always made it seem to move quickly and efficiently. Meade writes multiple quick chapters, 142 in all. While this may seem like a lot, it allowed Meade the freedom to remain with a particular storyline for a few chapters or quickly jump back and forth, creating cliffhangers that made me want to read more.
There was little extraneous detail in the novel, as there wasn’t really any time for it with the multitude of characters to keep track of. That is where this novel differs from some others that I’ve read in this genre. Often, I read these action/adventure stories that include additional detail and cheesy references to the hero that make him/her seem less authentic. However, there is none of that in Meade’s work. Jack is an honest archeologist that is not invincible. He is down to earth and just reacts to the extraordinary circumstances that he is placed in. Most of all, Jack is believable. It is that believability that made me happy to read through this novel. Meade has a great hit on his hands, one that is definitely worth a read!
5 out of 5 stars