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Book Review – The Inquisitor’s Key by Jefferson Bass

SynopsisDr. Bill Brockton tackles the case of the millennium – a case that could shake the Vatican to its very foundations – in the richest and most captivating novel yet in the New York Times bestselling Body Farm series.

Miranda Lovelady, Dr. Bill Brockton’s protégé, is spending the summer helping excavate a newly discovered chamber beneath the spectacular Palace of the Popes in Avignon, France.  There she discovers a stone chest inscribed with a stunning claim:  inside lie the bones of none other than Jesus of Nazareth.  Faced with the Case of the millenium, Miranda summons Brockton for help proving or refuting the claim.  Both scientists are skeptical – after all, fake relics abounded during the Middle Ages – but evidence for authenticity looks strong initially, and soon grows stronger.

Brockton and Miranda link the bones to the haunting image of the Shroud of Turin, revered by millions as the burial cloth of Christ, and then a laboratory test finds that the bones are 2,000 years old.  The finding sets off a lethal tug of war between the anthropologists, the Vatican, and a deadly zealot who hopes to use the bones to bring about the Second Coming – and trigger the end of time.

Set against an international landscape, and weaving a rich tapestry of religion, history, art, and science The Inquisitor’s Key takes Jefferson Bass to an exciting new level of suspense.

First LineA mockingbird twittered on a branch of a dogwood as a middle-aged man – his hair going to salt and pepper, but his body fit and his movements brisk – approached a chainlink gate at the edge of a wooded hillside.

Random QuoteLeaving Lumani, I turned left and followed the wall westward, toward the rocky hill where the Palace of the Popes and the cathedral perched.  The streets were empty at this hour, and the city itself was largely shuttered and silent.  The only noise came from the wind:  the surging, surflike mistral churning across roof tiles and seething through the shredded leaves of a plane tree.

Review:  I’m a great admirer of the Body Farm series, authored by Jefferson Bass.  Jefferson Bass is a team of writers who are Jon Jefferson, a renowned journalist, and Dr. Bill Bass, the founder of The Body Farm at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.  My undergraduate degree is in biological anthropology and Dr. Bass has long been one of my heroes – a true visionary and pioneer in the field of forensic anthropology.  Dr. Bass and Mr. Jefferson make a great team as they bring compelling storytelling and rich scientific knowledge to this series of thrillers.  These are the real deal.

The Inquisitor’s Key diverges somewhat from the other Body Farm books I’ve read by giving less prominence to forensic anthropology and more prominence to religious and art history.  Combined with the scientific threads these qualities make this a fascinating book.  As the daughter of an artist, I particularly enjoyed the art historical sections – reading about artists I studied reading Vasari’s Lives of the Artists (a fascinating read if you’re interested in art of this time period).  To see Giotto come to life on the pages and to read about the proper techniques for making tempera paints with egg and pigment and using this to bind the paint to plaster in creating frescoes was a joy.

In many ways this book is also less a thriller than an exploration of the developing relationship between Brockton and Miranda who are thrown together in this search for truth about both bones and the Shroud of Turin.  Setting all of this against the beautifully described backdrop of Avignon, France and this book is a winner.  Do like I did and stay up all night reading – it’ll be great fun, I promise.

FTC Disclosure:  Advance review copy from the author’s website for review

Publishing Information: William Morrow – May 8, 2012


Reading Challenges:  Mystery and Suspense Challenge 2012

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