The Fifth Gospel

S. & S. Mar. 2015. 448p. ISBN 9781451694147. $25.99. LITERARY THRILLER
Written with Dustin Thomason, Caldwell's The Rule of Four spent nearly a year on the New York Times best sellers list. It's been a ten-year wait for the follow-up, but here it is. In 2004, the curator of a forthcoming under-wraps exhibit at the Vatican Museums is murdered even as his research partner, Greek Catholic priest Father Alex Andreou, suffers a break-in at the Vatican home he shares with his young son. Launching his own investigation, Father Alex begins to see what the curator saw: a link between the Gospels (including a real-life fifth gospel known as the Diatessaron) and a controversial holy relic.
Ten years ago Caldwell's The Rule of Four, coauthored with Dustin Thomason, dominated the best sellers lists. With his second novel, Caldwell claims a legitimate position among the notables of this artifact-adventure genre. Set within the walls of the Vatican (circa 2004), this thriller treats us to a captivating and compelling look at the history, politics, and pageantry of the Holy See against the backdrop of a Vatican Museum exhibit. Bolstered by a copy of the Diatessaron, a single narrative aggregate of the four Gospels, exhibit curator Ugo seeks to reestablish the Shroud of Turin's relic status. This fifth gospel is the linchpin of his exhibit. While helping Ugo, Father Alex Andreaou, a Greek Catholic priest, and his brother Simon become entangled in something more complex than the exhibit. When Ugo is found dead, everything the brothers have worked for is in jeopardy.
VERDICT Fascinating, clever, and plausible, this thriller is, at its heart, a story of sacrifice, forgiveness, and redemption. Peppered with references to real-life people, places, and events, the narrative rings true, taking the reader on an emotional journey nearly 2,000 years in the making. [See Prepub Alert, 9/15/14.]
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