A novel of danger and adventure about an archaeological discovery that threatens to rewrite biblical history.
Amberg’s (America’s Fool, 2012, etc.) thriller takes readers to Turkey, where Joe Travers, a former Motorola executive, visits an archaeological site funded in part by his friend’s foundation. Joe finds the project riven by conflicts between Sophia Altay, the Turkish-French lead archaeologist, who quickly wins him over; Leopold Kirchburg, the Austrian project director with a considerable ego; and Charles Lee, who represents right-wing foundations that provide much of the financial support. The archaeologists discover an ossuary containing relics and documents that could substantially change humanity’s understanding of early Christianity. The search for the ossuary’s contents—which were hidden by Sophia’s devoted assistant, Abrahim—drives much of the book’s plot. Scenes of beatings, killings, and chases are punctuated by moments of extreme emotion; for example, at one point, Joe is “already in a quandary, the balance between the breathtaking beauty of the day and the sordid affairs of men not at all clear”; at another, Abrahim’s “blood boils—the Janissary blood, the blood of his lost ancestors, the wanderers and cave dwellers alike.” In Joe, Amberg offers a narrator who’s a keen observer, which allows the story to blend archaeological intrigue with a sharply drawn portrait of urban and rural Turkey. There are some clever turns of phrase, as when Joe notes that a document displayed on a computer screen is “illuminated in a way that would shock medieval monks.” However, there’s also a tendency to overuse terms such as “priapism” and “acorn cracker.” The author keeps the tension high, however, as Joe rushes to sort out everyone’s motivations and loyalties. Readers will be too caught up in unraveling the plot to wonder about the unanswered questions regarding the ossuary’s contents.
A generally well-written, fast-paced thriller that follows in the footsteps of The Da Vinci Code and Indiana Jones.