THE RETURN by Joe de Mers

THE RETURN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

From the pseudonymous de Mers (author of ""fifteen previous novels, several of which were bought for Hollywood""): a gripping, sometimes thoughtful hardcover debut about the Second Coming, though not one to make Catholics happy. De Mers makes the disheartening choice to cross a seemingly serious work like, say, Lloyd C. Douglas's The Robe with Richard Condon's The Manchurian Candidate. Here, in Tennessee backcountry, a huge cloud and lightning transfigure the sky as perhaps a hundred fieldworkers and others witness the slowly floating descent of Jesus from heaven. Soon Jehsu, simply dressed, cures a sick horse, heals a lame man, walks out of a locked jail cell, fills an empty shrimp boat with an overflowing catch, and begins his second ministry with two shrimp fishermen and a streetcorner Bible thumper good for drawing crowds. Then he raises the dead daughter of vastly respected televangelist Don Bagley. Bagley sees that he has been chosen to reveal Jesus to the multitudes, which he does at a tremendous outdoor rally where Jehsu preaches against the Latin bureaucracy that has usurped his name. In Rome, the Vatican is under fire as American Catholics leave the church in droves to join with Jehsu down among the southern fundamentalists. A Sicilian priest is dispatched to assemble a hit team to end this false miracle worker's crusade. Meanwhile, in Greenwich Village, Father Brian Sheridan, a priest of wavering faith who's been given a year off to find himself again, joins with beautiful freelance journalist Marie Olivier to track down the heavies promoting the ""fake Jesus."" The reader, however, is not certain that Jehsu isn't who he says he is, since he sure spins a golden message, aside from his anticlericalism. The heart faints, though, as the story shades into car-chase action and loony Pulp Fiction hit men. A bag of pearls for a thriller audience. But Hollywood should let this cup pass.

Pub Date: March 11th, 1996
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Dutton