The Blood Gospel, a modern thriller with biblical roots, is the first full-length collaboration between James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell and part of the Order of the Sanguine series (available January 8, 2013).
One word of caution before you begin this book: install a seatbelt on your recliner or other favorite reading spot. Otherwise, you’ll end up in the floor because this is one bumpy ride.
The Blood Gospel is as fascinating as it is entertaining and as strange as it is believable.
We’re introduced to Dr. Erin Granger, a well-known archaeologist, at her dig in the sweltering heat of Caesarea, Israel, where she has discovered something that could shake devout Christians to their core, but that’s only a minor detail in a story that will bring her together with two other people who are part of an ancient prophesy.
Summoned to Masada due to a discovery made after an earthquake topples an ancient mountain, Erin meets a Vatican priest named Father Rhun Korza, a shadowy man hiding in the folds of his cassock. At Masada they find Sergeant Jordan Stone, a military forensic expert, and the three of them are dropped into the newly formed pit in the mountain to look for an ancient book that was said to be written by Christ himself—in his own blood.
When these three become the only survivors of a deadly attack on the command post above and the party of explorers in the mountain’s core, it becomes clear they must join forces and make finding the ancient Blood Gospel their ultimate quest. Their journey from Israel to the Vatican takes place over a period of just three days, but the action and adventure in those three days will keep your head spinning with details and your heart thumping with excitement.
We first met Jordan in City of Screams, by these two writers. In that story, released earlier this year, Jordan and his team of military forensic experts were called on to find the killers of an archeological team at an ancient ruin in Afghanistan. This is an equally compelling story. It’s obvious James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell can create a blend that satisfies even the most refined taste in this genre.
As you have probably surmised, I really enjoyed this book. Having been raised in the buckle of the Bible Belt, I had no problem following the story or understanding the scriptures quoted to support the tale. Like James Rollins’s other books, this one employs scientific and biblical theories to support the plot in a way that makes you stop and think and wonder if such things could really happen.
I got caught up in the horrific battle between good and evil with creatures that have been around for centuries, hiding in plain sight. From the dreaded strigoi to the more palatable Sanguines, this book is filled with creatures that make you think about what could happen—and even what might be happening that we never see—and it all centers around a book that probably should never be found or opened. But the three must find it—the Learned Woman, the Soldier of Man, and the Holy Man—who could possibly resist that?
Here’s a scene from Erin’s early dig:
Dr. Erin Granger stroked her softest brush across the ancient skull. As the dust cleared, she studied it with the eyes of a scientist, noting the tiny seams of bone, the open fontanel. Her gaze evaluated the amount of callusing, judging the skull to be that of a newborn, and from the angle of the pelvic bone, a boy. Only days old when he died.
As she continued to draw the child out of the dirt and stone, she looked on also as a woman, picturing the infant boy lying on his side, knees drawn up against his chest, tiny hands still curled into fists. Had his parents counted his heartbeats, kissed his impossibly tender skin, watched as that tiny heartbeat stopped? As she had once done with her baby sister.
She closed her eyes, brush poised.
Opening her eyes, she combed back an errant strand of blond hair that had escaped its efficient ponytail before turning her attention back to the bones. She would find out what happened here all those hundreds of years ago. Because, as with her sister, this child’s death had been deliberate. Only this boy had succumbed to violence, not negligence.
She continued to work, seeing the tender position of the limbs.
Someone had labored to restore the body to its proper order before burying it, but the efforts could not disguise the cracked and missing bones, hinting at a past atrocity. Even two thousand years could not erase the crime.
She put down the wooden brush and took yet another photo.
Time had colored the bones the same bleached sepia as the unforgiving ground, but her careful excavation had revealed their shape. Still, it would take hours to work the rest of the bones free.
She shifted from one aching knee to the other. At thirty-two, she was hardly old, but right now she felt that way. She had been in the trench for barely an hour, and already her knees complained. As a child, she had knelt in prayer for much longer, poised on the hard dirt floor of the compound’s church. Back then, she could kneel for half a day without complaint, if her father demanded—but after so many years trying to forget her past, perhaps she misremembered it.
Wincing, she stood and stretched, lifting her head clear of the waist-high trench. A cooling sea breeze caressed her hot face, chasing away her memories. To the left, wind ruffled the flaps of the camp’s tents and scattered sand across the excavation site.
Like the Navy says: it’s not just a job, it’s an adventure for these three people, and you’ll want your very own copy of this book. Fortunately your quest for it won’t be nearly as difficult or adventurous as theirs!
Leigh Neely is a former newspaper and magazine editor. She currently does freelance work, recently had a short story published in the anthology, Murder New York Style: Fresh Slices, and is a contributor to the blog WomenofMystery.net. She and her collaborator, Jan Powell, have a book, Second Nature by Neely Powell, coming out next spring.