Investigating her father’s mysterious death in post-WW2 Cairo, a young woman finds herself on the trail of the Lost (Gnostic) Gospels; there is also a flickering love interest in this second novel from Malarkey (An Obvious Enchantment, 2000).
Gemma Bastian is a nurse in London. She lost her mother in the Blitz; then her father, an archaeologist, left for Egypt. Now it’s 1947, and Gemma is off to Cairo herself; her father has died of a heart attack, and she will stay with his friends. David Lazar is an Englishman; his second wife is Egyptian; his children are half-brothers. There’s Michael (a morphine addict, drowning in self-pity because of his injuries as a fighter pilot) and Anthony (another archaeologist, calm, aloof); Gemma will spar and flirt with the still-sexy Michael while she pushes Anthony for information on her father’s research. He had achieved a breakthrough and was expecting money before being found dead in his office after his client, a British Museum official, was killed by a rock slide. It smells bad. Who is the ginger-haired guy she surprises in her father’s office? Why is he following her? And why is Anthony stonewalling? Gemma is her father’s daughter, a smart, fearless loner, and realizes her father had unearthed one of the Lost Gospels (as a young man, he had left the seminary after a similar discovery). Sinister machinations by the Catholic church; the elevation of Mary Magdalene—yes, there are some similarities to The Da Vinci Code here. But Malarkey assures us that her many gospel quotations are authentic (and credits The Gnostic Gospels, by Elaine Pagels). Her mix of shattering scriptural revelations and skullduggery should be combustible, but the fire never catches. The murders (four, at least) generate little excitement (this is Egypt; stuff happens) and the sheer number of different gospels in circulation becomes confusing. All this, and the bombing of Cairo by the Israelis? It’s way too much.
Passable entertainment; could have been much better.