A debut archaeological thriller examines the possible existence of ancient scrolls that could change the face of Christianity.
Ellen Shea is a star graduate student in the Fordham University Antiquities Department in New York City. Her command of foreign languages is prodigious: she can (and does) boast of a masterful grasp of Spanish, French, Greek, Latin, Arabic, and other languages. She’s recruited by an unscrupulous classicist—professor Paul P. Parkinson—to inspect two manuscripts written in Koine Greek and Aramaic he has come into possession of. Parkinson believes there are considerably more documents and that the entire bunch amounts to the elusive “Quelle,” thought by many to be entirely apocryphal. Legend has it that St. Papias exhaustively compiled a historical record of Jesus based on eyewitness accounts, including his Apostles, constituting source material older and potentially more reliable than the New Testament. The professor sends Ellen to Granada to track down these scrolls and compensates her generously for her labor and expertise. She travels with Mateo Barefoot, a mysterious and resourceful guide. Problematically, there are two other teams also hunting for the scrolls, both considerably less scrupulous about the means they adopt to achieve their ends. In a parallel narrative, the historical background of the Quelle itself is developed, which sheds light on the doctrinal unfurling of the Christian faith. In his book, Keats certainly shoots for formulaic genre fiction with all the signature elements: a dangerous archaeological quest, amoral competitors in search of a theologically significant prize, and the back story of a corrupt and conspiratorial Roman Catholic Church. Thankfully, Keats works within those stale parameters with considerable verve and charm, and his writing crackles with wry wit. Ellen’s academic mentor, Monsignor Brahaney, acerbically describes the professor: “Well, Parkinson was beyond ruthless, damn close to sociopathic, less interested in the research than what it brought him. Think Cromwell, Ellen, in tweed.” The author’s research is also extraordinarily deep and raises provocative questions about the meaning of Christianity independent of its institutional incarnation. Finally, Ellen turns out to be a companionable guide through the tale, both razor sharp and full of spunk. Anyone drawn to the genre can only hope a sequel adventure reprises the character.
An entertaining and thoughtful race to find a historical gem and a potentially world-changing truth.