"extremely well-orchestrated plot ... engaging, tense"– Kirkus Reviews
|Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2013|
|Page count: 278pp|
The latest book in Lankford’s (The Sacred Impostor, 2012, etc.) series about the adventures of a clone of Jesus of Nazareth.
At the beginning of this latest installment, Maggie Duffy Morelli is in Switzerland’s crowded Lugano marketplace when she encounters her 18-year-old son, Jess, who greets her with a glowing smile. She faints, and for a very good reason: Eight years before, she’d watched him die in her arms. When he revives her and they start talking, she’s not entirely surprised, because in this series, Jess is a biological clone of Jesus, grown from cell samples taken from the Shroud of Turin by a scientist named Felix Rossi. Like the Jesus of the Gospels, Jess has returned from the dead—albeit less promptly, taking eight years instead of three days. He surprises Maggie by quoting not only the New Testament but also the holy books of Hinduism, Islam and other creeds, telling her that “Truth is written everywhere.” Like his historical counterpart, he has a mission to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to the world’s potential believers, and that quest, in a complicated but extremely well-orchestrated plot, brings him to the small East African village of Udugu. As Lankford weaves her various subplots together, many other characters converge on Udugu for their own different and often mercenary reasons, including Wall Street hotshot Zach Dunlop and his abrasive wife, Zenia (who steals many scenes), conflicted pastor Paul Joseph, and Rossi and his family. At the heart of the book’s climax is Jess himself, exuding compassion (“All life’s troubles lay in their fears and they did not see”) while trying to save a very corrupt world. Readers unfamiliar with the series’ previous books will find a great many things unexplained here, but the action and sexual tension—often centering on Zenia—will nonetheless keep them entertained.
An engaging, tense installment in this ongoing series.
The third book in Lankford’s religious thriller series presents a fresh view of Mexican–American tensions.
The enigmatic Maggie Johnson mourns the loss of her 10-year-old son, who was the clone of Jesus of Nazareth. Her grief is palpable when she asks, “How could flowers still exist? How could the sun?” Yet life does go on in spite of her grief, and Maggie prepares for the birth of another child and her marriage to the father, Sam Duffy, whom she despises. On the other side of the coin is Coral Anders, a prostitute temporarily unemployed after the death of her boss. Former butler Luis Tepiltzin Moctezuma rises to power, inheriting a fortune. He offers Coral enough money to secure her future if she helps him kidnap Maggie’s baby as part of his “la reconquista” plan to reclaim American land for Mexico and avenge the deaths of his family members who died trying to cross the border illegally. While there is enough back story for the novel to stand alone, reading it without having read the previous two titles in The Jesus Thief series (The Secret Madonna, 2008, etc.) is like showing up to the party late. Characters are strung out and emotionally stressed as they plod along regretting the mistakes of their past. Sad Sam, the object of desire in a love triangle, seems more an empty plot device than a ladies’ man. His best scenes happen in memories, which depict a man who is not recognizable here. The most interesting character is the villainous Luis, who is fresh with his questionable plans. Through him, Lankford tells an often-ignored history of Mexican heritage and presents a new angle to the underside of illegal immigration.
This latest chapter of an experimental story comments on Mexican immigration and the power of faith and is better read as part of the series.