Thursday, January 04, 2007

Mystery Book Review: The Testament by Eric Van Lustbader

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of The Testament by Eric Van Lustbader. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.The Testament by Eric Van Lustbader

The Testament by Eric Van Lustbader
Non-series

Forge (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-765-31463-0 (0765314630)
ISBN-13: 978-0-765-31463-5 (9780765314635)
Publication Date: September 2006
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Braverman Shaw--"Bravo" to his friends--always knew his father had secrets. But not until Dexter Shaw dies does Bravo discover that his father belonged to the Order of Gnostic Observatines, a hidden sect long believed extinct. For centuries, the Order has guarded a lost Testament that could shake Christianity to its foundations. Dexter Shaw was the latest Keeper of the Testament--and Bravo is his chosen successor.

Before Dexter died, he hid the cache where only Bravo could find it. Now Bravo, an accomplished medieval scholar and cryptanalyst, must follow the esoteric clues his father left behind. His companion in this quest is Jenny Logan, a driven young woman with secrets of her own. Jenny is a Guardian, assigned by the order to protect Bravo, or so she claims. Bravo soon learns that he can trust no one where the Testament is concerned, perhaps not even Jenny ...

Another secret society, the Knights of St. Clement, originally founded and sponsored by the Papacy, has been after the Order's precious cache since the time of the Crusades. The Knights, agents and assassins, will stop at nothing to obtain the treasure. Bravo has become both a target and a pawn in an ongoing war far larger and more deadly than any he could have imagined.

From New York City to Washington D.C., to Paris, to Venice, and beyond, the race is on for the quintessential prize ... the Testament.

Review: In Eric Van Lustbader's latest thriller, The Testament, scholar Braverman "Bravo" Shaw is on a personal journey to seek out a cache of secrets following clues left to him by his late father. This cache includes the mysterious substance quintessence (the fifth classical element after earth, fire, water, and air) which may have been used to resurrect Jesus after his crucifixion, and a testament, a long hidden and suppressed gospel purportedly written by Jesus after his "death". Public knowledge of the contents of the cache could be catastrophic to modern Christianity, and with several factions using whatever means necessary to locate it, it is essential that Bravo find it first.

If all this sounds familiar, it should. Millions of copies of a similarly plotted book have been sold, and that same book was made into a movie seen by millions more. It's something of a mystery why an author of Lustbader's caliber needed to write such a derivative work.

There are some redeeming qualities in The Testament. First, and most importantly, the book is well written. Characters are expressive and appropriately developed for a stand-alone thriller, locales (of which there are many) are realistically depicted, and the action is relentless. Second, the story is well plotted, if familiar. And in a nice, personal touch, Bravo's father lives on in his memory, and throughout the story, with italicized comments that are relevant to the situation at hand.

It's hard not to enjoy a book by Lustbader, and in the end, The Testament is no exception. But it is still disappointing that the story was so conventional.

Special thanks to The Book Report Network for providing a copy of The Testament for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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