An ambitious and intriguing religious conspiracy tale that lacks convincing characters.



In this debut novel spanning two millennia, a retired professor unearths an alternate history of Christianity.

Mackellan Kirby, professor emeritus of ancient religious studies, spends his retirement translating the Dead Sea Scrolls. He discovers that parts of the text have been redacted and believes the missing sections are in an earlier document, the “Testament of Ephes,” the contents of which would “rock Christianity to its foundations.” Kirby enlists his niece Fiona, a CIA agent, and nephew Joe to travel to Santiago de Compostela to find the item. They are followed by the Vatican and Sam Wardell, an ex–CIA agent and now a consultant for the Congregation of the Holy Baptism; both organizations want to stop Kirby from making the discovery public. Murphy weaves this present-day narrative with two historical plots. One, set at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, reveals the “conspiracy” at the heart of the novel: Jesus did not die on the cross. His brother James, with help from Judas and other Apostles, died in his place so that the Messiah could live. Jesus then traveled to Santiago, where he had children with Mary Magdalene. Ephes recorded these details in letters to his cousin. The second historical plot, set in the 11th century, concerns Darda, the bishop charged with constructing a new cathedral in Santiago. Darda uncovers, translates, copies, and conceals Ephes’ writing. Murphy’s story is elaborate and thoroughly researched. Through the fictitious collusion, she delves into myths and facts surrounding the Holy Grail, the Templar Knights, the Rosicrucians, pilgrimages to Santiago, and many other aspects of Christianity. The author also has her characters discuss books such as Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, perhaps pre-empting readers from making similar links. Plausibility is compromised, however, by flat characters. In particular, Kirby, Fiona, and Joe often seem mere vehicles for history lessons, delivered through long monologues. The few attempts at introspection seem forced; for example, Fiona “secretly hated how she always became verbally abusive when angry, but could just not stop herself.” As such, the story is pushed by plot points rather than pulled by emotional connections.

An ambitious and intriguing religious conspiracy tale that lacks convincing characters.

Pub Date: May 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5320-1760-5

Page Count: 390

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2017

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A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.


Over 50 years after an extraterrestrial microbe wiped out a small Arizona town, something very strange has appeared in the Amazon jungle in Wilson’s follow-up to Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain.

The microparticle's introduction to Earth in 1967 was the disastrous result of an American weapons research program. Before it could be contained, Andromeda killed all but two people in tiny Piedmont, Arizona; during testing after the disaster, AS-1 evolved and escaped into the atmosphere. Project Eternal Vigilance was quickly set up to scan for any possible new outbreaks of Andromeda. Now, an anomaly with “signature peaks” closely resembling the original Andromeda Strain has been spotted in the heart of the Amazon, and a Wildfire Alert is issued. A diverse team is assembled: Nidhi Vedala, an MIT nanotechnology expert born in a Mumbai slum; Harold Odhiambo, a Kenyan xenogeologist; Peng Wu, a Chinese doctor and taikonaut; Sophie Kline, a paraplegic astronaut and nanorobotics expert based on the International Space Station; and, a last-minute addition, roboticist James Stone, son of Dr. Jeremy Stone from The Andromeda Strain. They must journey into the deepest part of the jungle to study and hopefully contain the dire threat that the anomaly seemingly poses to humanity. But the jungle has its own dangers, and it’s not long before distrust and suspicion grip the team. They’ll need to come together to take on what waits for them inside a mysterious structure that may not be of this world. Setting the story over the course of five days, Wilson (Robopocalypse, 2011, etc.) combines the best elements of hard SF novels and techno-thrillers, using recovered video, audio, and interview transcripts to shape the narrative, with his own robotics expertise adding flavor and heft. Despite a bit of acronym overload, this is an atmospheric and often terrifying roller-coaster ride with (literally) sky-high stakes that pays plenty of homage to The Andromeda Strain while also echoing the spirit and mood of Crichton’s other works, such as Jurassic Park and Congo. Add more than a few twists and exciting set pieces (especially in the finale) to the mix, and you’ve got a winner.

A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247327-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

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Manic parodist Moore, fresh off a season in 1947 San Francisco (Noir, 2018), returns with a rare gift for Shakespeare fans who think A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be perfect if only it were a little more madcap.

Cast adrift by pirates together with his apprentice, halfwit giant Drool, and Jeff, his barely less intelligent monkey, Pocket of Dog Snogging upon Ouze, jester to the late King Lear, washes ashore in Shakespeare’s Athens, where Cobweb, a squirrel by day and fairy by night, takes him under her wing and other parts. Soon after he encounters Robin Goodfellow (the Puck), jester to shadow king Oberon, and Nick Bottom and the other clueless mechanicals rehearsing Pyramus and Thisby in a nearby forest before they present it in celebration of the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the captive Amazon queen who’s captured his heart, Pocket (The Serpent of Venice, 2014, etc.) finds Robin fatally shot by an arrow. Suspected briefly of the murder himself, he’s commissioned, first by Hippolyta, then by the unwitting Theseus, to identify the Puck’s killer. Oh, and Egeus, the Duke’s steward, wants him to find and execute Lysander, who’s run off with Egeus’ daughter, Hermia, instead of marrying Helena, who’s in love with Demetrius. As English majors can attest, a remarkable amount of this madness can already be found in Shakespeare’s play. Moore’s contribution is to amp up the couplings, bawdy language, violence, and metatextual analogies between the royals, the fairies, the mechanicals, his own interloping hero, and any number of other plays by the Bard.

A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-243402-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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