THE LUCIFER GOSPEL
By: Paul Christopher
Onyx: New York
August 2006 (pb)
If you like your escapist reading to be full of
slam-bang action, conspiracies ancient and contemporary, frantic
globe-trotting, cliffhanger situations, and a preposterous plot—and you
don’t mind archaeology that’s a little thin on reality—then Paul
Christopher’s The Lucifer Gospel is the perfect book for you!
This is Christopher’s second novel to feature heroine
Finn Ryan and she follows up her adventure concerning Michelangelo’s
Notebook with this foray that finds her joining an archaeological
expedition in the Libyan desert as a technical artist. But her first stop
is in Cairo, where she meets up with roguish photographer/pilot Virgil
Hilts, who is also en route to the Libyan dig. This expedition is directed
and funded by eccentric American billionaire Rolf Adamson, whose grandfather
had been a famous, or infamous, religious zealot linked to numerous right
wing movements, including the occult archaeological ventures undertaken by
the Nazis in the 1930s. The present expedition would appear to be much more
benign as it seeks to excavate a Coptic monastery rumored to be the final
resting place of the Apostle Didymus (Doubting Thomas) of the Gospels.
The benign nature of the project is soon put in
question when Finn, guided by Hilts through Cairo’s City of the Dead, is
separated from her new friend and is pursued by a mute swordsman,
reminiscent of the Cairo swordsman in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
I might hasten to add that Christopher gleefully pays homage to that film,
and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, when quotes at length the
“Professor Tyree” reference which acknowledged Harrison Ford’s affection for
his philosophy professor at Beloit College. He also makes several
references to Dan Brown and The Da Vinci Code, especially as Finn and
Hilts begin their frenetic globetrotting to stay a step ahead of Adamson’s
assassins while discovering the secret of the Lucifer Gospel (not the
Lucifer you’re probably thinking of) that could put 2,000 years of Church
doctrine in question! They race from the Libyan desert to the boot of Italy
to Milan and to Paris—and a deadly game of cat and mouse in the Paris
Catacombs, of course!—to Nassau in the Bahamas and finally to a Podunk
village in southern Illinois, not far from Cairo. Talk about an ironic
squaring of the circle!
I won’t give away how a hunt that begins with a 1st
Century AD Roman medallion, belonging to legionary Luciferus Africanus ends
up in a limestone cavern in southern Illinois—I’m not certain I could if I
wanted to!—but oddly enough this guilty pleasure was rollicking good fun to
read and I recommend it rather highly as an escape from the somberness we
read in the daily newspaper and see on the cable news networks.
Three trowels—guiltily awarded!
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