Book Reviews

Review Rating

With the October 2004 review, we began rating the books on the basis of one to four trowels; 
one trowel= don’t bother, to four trowels= run right out to your local book store and buy the hard cover!

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Inquisition by David Gibbins

Reviewed on: November 1, 2019


St. Martin’s Press:  New York
April, 2019 (pb)

A treasure of incalculable religious importance is smuggled from the catacombs of 3rd Century AD Rome to a safe haven among Spanish Jews sympathetic to Christianity.  Almost two thousand years later, underwater archaeologist Jack Howard and his longtime friend and sidekick Costas Kazantzakis dive on a 17th century shipwreck named the Schiedam off the coast of Cornwall and are unwittingly thrust into a dangerous odyssey that will take them from Cornwall to Tangier, Morocco to Coimbra, Portugal to Port Royal, Jamaica and ultimately to the Cerro Rico—the “Rich Mountain,” also known as the “Mountain that Eats Men”—in the Bolivian Andes.  Their quest is as old as the history of Christendom—to find the Holy Grail of medieval legend, the actual cup used by Christ and his apostles at the Last Supper.

David Gibbins spins this yarn—which could easily be painfully trite—with the skills he has honed over the nine previous Jack Howard adventures.  He incorporates large doses of factual history—including the annals of the Schiedam, a Dutch merchant ship captured by Barbary Pirates, recaptured by the British Navy and used to evacuate the failed British colony of Tangier; the history of Henry Avery, the “King of Pirates;” the participation of famed diarist Samuel Pepys in the evacuation of Tangier; the horrors of the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions; and the depraved treatment of  workers, both free and enslaved, who mined the silver of Cerro Rico for the Spanish Empire—as well as expert portrayals of underwater archaeology and the discipline’s latest technological innovations.  All of this lends an aura of reality to what is essentially a treasure hunt whose protagonists—Jack, Costas and various members of the International Maritime University—are stalked and threatened every step of the way by the murderous cult known as Altamanus—the Black Hand—that infiltrated the Inquisition and whose antecedents dated back to the Roman era.

Inquisition is a rollicking tale of adventure and imagination firmly anchored in authentic history and easily deserving four trowels.

Twenty Years in the Trenches: Archaeology in Fiction

William Gresens, longtime MVAC supporter and volunteer, has been writing reviews of archaeological fiction as MVAC’s book reviewer for twenty years.  In this interview Bill shares how he got started writing reviews for MVAC, how the genre has changed, highlights, and his thoughts looking forward. 

Bill Gresen’s Book Review 20th Anniversary

While Bill's reviews go back 20 years now, his relationship with MVAC goes back more than twice that long! The reviews capture some of the things we enjoy most about Bill-- he's perceptive, methodical, a clear thinker, and a whole lot of fun! We look forward to this relationship--and Bill's reviews!--continuing for many years to come.

The March 2021 review marks the 20th anniversary of reviews of archaeological fiction.  It has been my pleasure and great fun to while away the hours reading these books—for the most part, at least—and writing the reviews!  My thanks to MVAC allowing me to prattle on and I look forward to the years ahead.

Bill Gresens