Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Fifth Gospel

by Ian Caldwell
448 pgs

It's been awhile since The Rule of Four, Ian Caldwell's first book (co-authored with Dustin Thomason) hit the top of the NY Times Bestseller list and stayed there for six months. I have to be honest and say that I wasn't all that impressed by that book. It was good, but I didn't understand all the hype surrounding it. It's a little ironic then that The Fifth Gospel, Caldwell's second book, hasn't received nearly as much hype as his first one did, but for me, it's a better and much more enjoyable book.

At the center of the book are the Shroud of Turin and the Diatessaron. The first is one of the most studied and controversial Christian artifacts in existence, and the other is a 2nd century text written by an early Christian named Tatian, who attempted to consolidate the four Gospels of the New Testament into one cohesive narrative of the life of Jesus Christ.

The book begins in 2004, during the final days of Pope John Paul II's ministry. An exhibit will be opening soon inside the Vatican Museum; an exhibit that promises to be controversial and claims that it will reveal a "dramatic discovery" concerning the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin. In the opening pages of the book, the curator of the exhibit is murdered, and Simon Andreou, a Roman Catholic priest, is believed to be his killer. It's up to Simon's brother Alex, a Greek Orthodox priest, to try to exonerate his brother before it's too late.

A big part of the book's appeal to me was the way Caldwell incorporated several verses from the four Gospels and a lot of interesting biblical history into his story. Both of which were used to support the idea that the Shroud of Turin is in fact the same cloth that Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea used to wrap the body of Jesus of Nazareth in after His body was taken down from the cross.

Caldwell has succeeded in writing a very intelligent and well-researched thriller. There's no "sophomore slump" taking place here. Although that might be because it took him about a decade to write this second book as opposed to the couple of years authors normally take to write their second one. But it was worth the wait.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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