Sunday, February 10, 2008

Mystery Book Review: The Secret Scroll by Ronald Cutler

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written a review of The Secret Scroll by Ronald Cutler. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

The Secret Scroll by Ronald CutlerBuy from Amazon.com

The Secret Scroll by
Non-series

Beaufort Books (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-8253-0515-2 (0825305152)
ISBN-13: 978-0-8253-0515-3 (9780825305153)
Publication Date: February 2008
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Josh Cohan, a work-obsessed archaeology professor, has a recurring dream about a great secret. He follows his instincts to the Judean desert, where he makes a fantastic discovery an ancient scroll which seems to have been written by Jesus Christ. The Israeli Antiquities Authority has a claim on the scroll, but another, more sinister organization wants the scroll as well. The Guardians, members of an ancient extremist religious sect, are willing to kill to get what they want.

Josh joins the government-sponsored team of translators who believe the scroll might be genuine, and falls in love with Danielle, the fiery daughter of one of the translators. When a friend turns up dead and Danielle goes missing, Josh realizes that the scroll might be more powerful and controversial than he had ever imagined. Will Josh be able to prevent something terrible from happening to the woman he loves without giving up the most important discovery mankind has ever made?

Review: Ronald Cutler's debut novel, The Secret Scroll, is an imaginative tale that reaches to the center of Jerusalem where the great religions of the world converge in a single city.

Josh Cohan, a disillusioned Professor of Archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania, takes a much-needed sabbatical from the politics of the university museum hierarchy where he is employed and travels to Israel where he has been many times before. While he is driving through the hills of Masada where there is so much history, he feels he is meant to go to find a hidden cave. When he finds the cave, he unearths an ancient cylinder containing a scroll that he could tell has been buried for many years. Although it is a requirement of the law to present any archaeological find to the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA), Josh decides to take it to his hotel for his own expert examination. After all, it had been buried for at least 2000 years; a few more days wouldn’t hurt. With surgical gloved hands he removes the scroll and sees that the words are written in Aramaic, a language he had studied at the university. He translates a few sentences and it becomes aware that these words were written by the man known today as Jesus Christ.

Josh turns over the scroll to the IAA which consists of seven men of different faiths. It is their responsibility to investigate the find, and when finished attest to its authenticity or declare it a fraud. Because of the nature of the scroll, the men decide it would be best to keep the discovery a secret. Even if it was a fraud, much unwelcome chaos could be brought to bear. If it proved to be true, it would change the beliefs of many churches and synagogues around the world. Everyone agreed, including Josh. There was one among them, however, who though he agreed did not keep the secret. This man was a member of a secret, very prejudiced religious cult dating back at least 200 years. The cult hated Jews, Catholics, Muslims, Protestants, and any other sect that did not believe as they taught. They had already killed, and now they were willing to kill again to get their hands on the scroll and destroy it. As Josh tries to discover the man in the IAA who had betrayed them, their leader (the "Master”) kidnaps the woman Josh loves, whose safe return is guaranteed in exchange for the scroll.

Cutler cleverly weaves history, scholarly writings, and a fictional story with (admittedly) a fair amount of speculation into a very suspenseful novel that races toward a thrilling conclusion. The "damsel in distress" aspect is a bit overdone, but otherwise the plot is well reasoned with believable characters.

The Secret Scroll is not only very well written and inventive, it is a thought-provoking novel that is both enthralling and entertaining.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of for contributing her review of The Secret Scroll and to Meryl L. Moss Media Relations for providing an ARC of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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