In Kartal’s (The Prophet’s Scribe, 2012) religious thriller, a post-grad Sovietologist traverses the globe in search of Jesus’ handwritten autobiography.
Frankie Karter, a minor MI6 agent and Eton-trained student of Soviet history, is called to his grandmother Irena’s deathbed in the Georgian capital in 1987. Irena reveals a family secret involving Frankie’s late grandfather, Nickolas: The Bolshevik revolutionary stole the original Gospel of Jesus from Joseph Stalin. She leaves Frankie three items: an ancient Nestorian ring, an unfamiliar address in Krakow and the first sentence of Jesus’ Gospel, written on Egyptian papyrus in his own hand. Irena instructs Frankie to locate the rest of the Gospel but warns that many would kill for this document. In the style of The Da Vinci Code, Kartal sends Frankie on a dangerous quest for the Messiah’s own words—leading him to Poland, Russia and Rome—with a slew of evil international operatives on his tail. Frankie—along with his friend Rich, a post-grad student specializing in religious antiquities, and Bogdan, a well-connected Polish acquaintance—manages to stay one step ahead of the spies and smugglers who covet the treasured scripture. Frankie’s pilgrimage unearths a wealth of lies, secrets and betrayals, resulting in a trail of deaths. His circuitous quest is revealed in very short chapters, allowing readers a moment to digest the plethora of clues and historical facts embedded throughout the text. A self-proclaimed truth addict, Frankie is determined to learn what lies behind the sacred writings while keeping his enemies at bay. His adventures ultimately lead to a face-to-face confrontation with the most powerful figure in religious history. Shocks and twists underscore Kartal’s masterful storytelling, but this slim volume could easily be developed further. Although Kartal attempts to tie it all together at the end, readers will still be left with weighty, unanswered questions.
Fans of Dan Brown will enjoy this invigorating, informed quest to uncover ancient secrets.