Thursday, February 18

D.L. Wilson: Unholy Grail-A Novel

While researching for her latest book a biblical scholar is shown part of a document supposedly written by James, brother of Jesus, shortly after the crucifixion. Her attempts to authenticate the document lead her to a secret sect within the Jesuit community. But no sooner has she uncovered these guardians of the secret gospel than they start turning up murdered bearing the marks of the stigmata.
Afraid for her life, and those of her informants, she rushes across Europe, accompanied by a Jesuit priest, in a race against time, hoping to find the proof she needs to authenticate the document before the crusading murderer catches up with her.
A series of convoluted coincidences lead her to the very heart of a secret so huge it could smash the foundations of Christianity entirely-if she can prove it to be true.
It is probably unfair to compare this book to the Da Vinci Code but such a comparison is inevitable. Not only does this book have a similar plot (an academic and a researcher racing to stay one step ahead of a fanatical religious assassin while unravelling clues that may prove a blood line of Christ) but it also has similar format (very short chapters, action happening on a number of different fronts, big on tell rather than show) and similar faults (wooden dialogue, two dimensional characters, info dumps).
It also had a few problems all of its own. One stand out is the equal emphasis given to every event in the story. What the characters had for lunch is presented with the same amount of detail as is the murderer planning his next hit. The main characters have the same disagreement (though differently worded) almost every time they speak about the document. And don’t get me started on the idea that a Christian who questions the literality of the Bible is mistaken in their beliefs.
But it would be shooting fish in a barrel to point out the problems with this work, much harder is to pin down why I finished it when I’ve walked away from others of similar quality. I think the thing this book does successfully is keep the reader from getting bored. The short chapters allow for rapid switching of action fronts, information is dumped in spoonfuls rather than by the bucket load and red herrings abound.
Had this book been published before Dan Brown’s breakout novel, it may very well have captured the imagination of religious conspiracy theorists with the same success as his work. Had the author taken time to develop his characters or concepts more they may have stood out from the crowd. As it is this has all been done before, a problem with the entire genre rather than just with this particular book.
Overall this book has a big bang of an opening that didn’t fulfil its promise.-Lynn

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