Monday, 13 April 2015

The Fifth Gospel by Ian Caldwell

Review by The Mole

When Alex gets a call for help from his brother Simon he arrives to find Ugo, their friend, dead - having been shot.

Alex is an Eastern Catholic priest - a sort of cross between an Orthodox and a Roman Catholic - while his brother has adopted the Roman church. Eastern Catholics recognise the authority of the Pope and priests are allowed to marry and have children. Alex's wife, Mona has left him leaving their young son Peter behind so when an intruder breaks in while he is out Alex becomes terrified for the safety of his son.

And it all seems to stem from the Diatesseron - a fifth gospel compiled from the other four to set about eliminating contradictions and attempt to establish historical fact. Ugo, was trying to authenticate the Turin Shroud using the Diatesseron and present his findings to the world - but it seems someone decided to stop him.

When the trial of Ugo's accused murderer starts it is like no other I have read - it's under canonical law and everything changes totally leaving the reader less able to predict the outcome. But is it a trial or political ping pong within the church?

The story is extremely well plotted and has no supermen that can pluck the answers from the sky - this makes the whole thing very readable. Alex - the protagonist of the book - comes to conclusion after conclusion and by sheer odds he ought to get it right sometime.

Did the ending come as a surprise to me? Honestly? No - but I'm not sure the story was about that. There are so many themes in the book that it's difficult to say what the main theme is. Loyalty, fatherly love, love, justice, validity of the gospels and so much more. Some have described this as a literary thriller and I suppose the depth of the themes may qualify as that but for me it was the thriller that kept me reading and enjoying it the most.

A really good book with ideas that some may challenge but remember - it is a work of fiction.

Publisher - Simon and Schuster
Genre - Adult Thriller

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