DAMASCUS QURAN

A NOVEL

This sprawling historical novel has an explosive concept at its heart: the discovery of an ancient, alternative Quran.
Balderston’s (The Proven God, 2011) latest book begins in fairly familiar Da Vinci Code territory: Bobby Johnson and Grace Richards are working on the renovation of an old church named Trinity when they discover a crypt and hints of an ancient library on the premises. They learn that the building is owned by a shadowy organization called the Alpha and Omega Society for the Preservation of Truth. For decades, the society has boarded up the library rather than allow its books to incite the world’s anger and rejection—particularly The Wonder of Terra by Father John “Poggio” Dolan, who’d been a part of the society for years but has since retired to Colorado. In order to understand The Wonder, Bobby, Grace and the head of the society jet off to see Dolan, who has a bombshell for them all: Years before, he bought an old manuscript he thought was an ancient Quran, until Ali Malek, a Lebanese friend of his, studied the manuscript and was astonished to discover that it wasn’t a Quran. Rather, it was some kind of alternate Islamic text every bit as old as the Muslim holy book but radically different in several key ways that, if verified and published, would be revolutionary. They anticipate the outrage of the ulema, the scholars of Islam, who’ll cite the relevant passages from the Quran utterly forbidding additions and alterations, let alone wholesale revisions. This alternate Quran could provoke “a battle for control of the Muslim world.” Balderston varies these present-day theological tensions with extensive, well-realized historical segments dramatizing the book’s long history. However, the vibrancy of this history might lead conservative sects to a simple solution: “It was a book that needed to be destroyed.” Balderston skillfully balances these separate strands, blending the past and the present in a potent mixture that will please all but the most religiously zealous readers.

A textured, intriguing novel about a world-changing holy book.

Pub Date: Nov. 18, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Tate Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2014

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

ONE GOOD DEED

Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

CROOKED RIVER

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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