The casual purchase of a cheap copy of the Quran on the streets of Baghdad leads to a shocking discovery and a plot spanning half the Middle East.
When Miami journalist Carlos Lopez discovers an old parchment tucked inside the Quran he buys from a street vendor in Baghdad, he brings it to his friend Professor Prescott for help in deciphering it. Idle curiosity turns far more serious when the professor turns up dead shortly afterward, prompting Lopez to visit Cairo in an attempt to figure out why this document would be motive for murder. He quickly finds himself allied with Cyril Sahani of the Department of Lost and Stolen Antiquities of the Egyptian Ministry of Culture—despite the baroque title, Cyril is frequently armed and is by a wide margin the book’s most interesting character. The two of them—an odd-couple pairing that never quite ignites—embark on a quest that takes them from Damascus to Morocco, with many a stop in between for kidnapping, gunplay and visits to a series of ancient clerics and Quran experts. The mysterious fragment looks to be a lost writing of the Prophet and therefore a potentially world-changing discovery. The pair’s activities don’t go unnoticed—not only are they dogged by the agents of potential buyers, they’re shadowed by secret religious forces intent on preventing their find from ever becoming public knowledge. These secretive forces employ an enormous wrestler and a deadly assassin/Shakespeare buff named Othello Woo who steals every scene he’s in—between jobs ice-picking his helpless victims to death, he laments that there’s so much violence in the world. Unfortunately, Roig’s prose is often too wooden for the excitement of the plot he’s dreamed up. The story is told in the present tense, which is trickier than it looks, but readers will keep going just the same.
A thought-provoking, intriguingly religious take on the standard international thriller.