Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Fifth Gospel - Ian Caldwell

You'll likely hear Brown's name evoked over and over in reviews of Ian Caldwell's new novel, but I have never read a Dan Brown novel, so I can't make any comparison. As a rule, I'm not terribly interested in speculative fiction. I do understand the appeal, though, so for those who do have fun running down the what-if rabbit holes, here's one for you.

The Fifth Gospel is ultimately, a legal thriller, albeit one that features the legal processes of the Catholic Church, and it provides a fascinating fictional glimpse into the inner workings of that institution. Artist Ugolino Nogara has spent years designing an exhibit which puports to answer, once and for all, the lingering question about the origins and authenticity of the Shroud of Turin. His exhibit relies on his study of the Diatessaron, the harmonic Gospel written in the 11th Century which sought to reconcile inconsistencies in the four traditional Gospels.

It is believed that Nogara's exhibit will have deeply resonating repercussions for the Roman Catholic Church, particularly as regards its historically uneasy relationship with the Greek Catholic and Greek Orthodox communities. The push and pull of these earliest Christian bodies of faith is made manifest here in the persons of brothers Simon (a Roman Catholic priest) and Alex (a Greek Catholic priest), who both served as mentors and friends to Nogara.

When Nogara is found dead before the exhibit can see light of day and a key piece of the exhibit is found to be missing, the quest to answer multiple mysteries begins. Who killed him? Where is the missing page of the Diatessaron? What is the true source of the Shroud?

I found all the church history to be very interesting, and while I am sure liberties were taken with some of the depictions of the inner workings of the Vatican, all of that held me in thrall as well. I found the denouement lacking, however, but expect that others may not find it so. All in all, a chewy good read.

On Sale Date:  March 3, 2015

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