If it weren’t for the continuing interest in the wickedness of the Catholic Church and the on-going variety of plots imagined, we would be forced to find another perpetual villain. Fortunately for those of us who enjoy a good thriller with romance thrown in, the never-ending variety of writers’ imaginations keeps giving us new ones.
The Messiah Matrix has a plot with all the ingredients to keep us turning pages. A lovely archaeologist with two assistants finds a treasure in the harbor by the ancient port of Caesarea. It is a rare gold coin. Emily Scelba is convinced the coin is authentic, but calls upon a former lover (probably never a really good idea to trust one of them) for help in proving her find authentic. In a somewhat obvious move, he disappears when the value of the coin is deemed to be priceless.
Then we have Father Ryan McKeown, S.J., the tousled brown-haired priest (a Jesuit—in a bit of rather timely choice), who is in his cassock and life of celibacy somewhat reluctantly. He is drawn into a rapidly escalating plot of murder, Vatican politics, and danger. When he meets Emily after the one man they both knew turns up dead, the road to a solution to the many problems presented becomes rocky indeed. Make no mistake about this book; it’s a well-written thriller with a deep secret which would shock the world. Although at this point in history, nothing the Vatican or the Catholic Church does shocks all that much.
This secret has been kept for hundreds of years; the Jesuits (known as the scholars, educators, and sometime rebels of the church) are hell-bent to keep the secret until such time….well, such time that it would be convenient for a power grab.
Emily and Ryan try to stay one step ahead of the bad guys. It’s hard to tell who that is and it seems to depend on the mood of the day. Ryan struggles with his crisis of faith and his attraction to Emily. She moans to herself that the sexiest man she has met in years is a man who has sworn his life to his order and to a life of celibacy. Thankfully, the author does not descend to prurient tastes and manages to escalate the sexual tension without resorting to anything other than the sins of thought and withheld desire. Although the two are trapped once (more than once) and do end up in each other’s arms exchanging a smoldering kiss. Much to their individual dismay.
The author has an impressive background as a scholar. It is obvious in the history that is part and parcel of this story. Augustus Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Roman history of the time of Jesus, and Jesus himself are brought together. But that is the part of the novel that may cause many readers to pause. The parallels between the life of Augustus and Jesus are clearly intended to shock and surprise. The Roman Emperor had himself declared a god, his birth a miracle of conception, and supposedly pulled off miracles of his own.
The introduction of historical facts is covered rather slickly by having Emily tell the skeptic Father Ryan all the “facts” in the form of stories. Emily herself went to a school taught by Jesuits, but has long since left the church. She has a great deal of historical knowledge which continues to shock Ryan. The plot proceeds at a good pace right down to the last chapters. The ending struck me as contrived, and the stretch when the secret is revealed is almost too unbelievable to consider. But that’s from one who also left the church. Those first eight grades in Parochial Catholic School leave an indelible mark.
MaryLu McFall is the author of A Little Karmic Murder, an eBook that is available on Kindle, Nook, and all other electronic readers. She lives, works part-time at an independent bookstore, and will soon have her Young Adult novel, The Family Lancaster, published as an eBook as well.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Kenneth John Atchity. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.