“ Genre: Fiction / Author: Carolyn McCray / Kindle Edition / 441 Pages / Book is published 2010-12-22 by Off Our Meds Multimedia „
I must admit when I stumbled across the rather sensationalistic sounding novel "30 Pieces of Silver: An Extremely Controversial Historical Thriller" by unknown author Carolyn McCray whilst browsing in the Kindle Store I suspected it would be another one of those "jump on the Dan Brown bandwagon and try to stun everyone with some scandalous historical lie we've been told all our lives to cover up somebody's naughtiness" type story, but since the title was so blatantly exaggerating its own sense of self worth - not just being controversial but extremely controversial - I felt inescapably compelled to buy it even though I knew I'd obviously fallen for their little trick like the sucker I am. The title gave away somewhat the fact that the story was likely to be connected to Jesus Christ and his fairly well known betrayal at the hands of Judas for 30 pieces of silver and obviously stepping out of line from any established Biblical doctrines is a risky business as you may well have an albino monk assassin coming your way, but clearly if any of it were true there would be epic waves of tsunami proportions in the academic world and not the literary one so before I even started reading I had my Kindle surrounded by a few pinches of salt.
So, it all starts in Jerusalem where Jesus Christ is on the verge of beginning the fulfilment of the prophecy written before his birth and is ready to start preaching the word of God with his Disciples, which as we all know will fatefully lead to the crucifix. Meanwhile, in the modern day when a bomb goes off at the Eiffel Tower and a crypt full of old bones is revealed, the expertise of Dr Rebecca Monroe are requested by higher powers and a special ops team lead by Sergeant Brandt is sent in to extract her from the Ecuadorian Rainforest to deliver her safely to Professor Archibald Lochum, a man whose controversial research area has left him in hiding from various disgruntled groups all out for his blood. Some mysterious bones lead them all on a trail going back to the time of Jesus Christ with an unknown secret society hot on their heels, and their revelations may shake the Christian world to its core - but can anyone survive long enough to tell that tale with danger and treachery at seemingly every turn?
Well, in a market now saturated by all these adventure stories with historical conspiracy theories that rewrite history being uncovered by an unnaturally attractive female/male partnership with the prospect of romance the element of surprise decreases with the more of these type of books you read, and this is yet another book following this tried and tested formula so any shock value from historical discoveries becomes expected and thus slightly ineffectual. Having said that though, taking this book out of that context and treating it as an entirely separate entity this is a well written story with a very easy to read and free-flowing writing style from the third person perspective with a great mixture of some very evocative description and realistic dialogue that allows the thoughts of a multitude of characters to bring different insights into events unfolding as well as being a carefully constructed, exciting and action packed adventure story of discovery, and I was utterly entertained by it, even if I didn't believe a word, which really I think is the sole purpose of this genre.
Those fundamental basics that are essential in providing the skeleton framework that allow these types of stories to unravel successfully, for me, were balanced just right in this story. The characterisation of strong and likeable leading protagonists is priority number one, and both Dr Monroe and Sergeant Brandt were the perfect duo, with Monroe as the stubborn, but intelligent, independent and brave female and Brandt as the equally intelligent, resourceful and fearless male whose often contentious relationship make for an interesting dynamic, and this excellent characterisation was supported by equally well fleshed out lesser characters including the hardcore members of Brandt's team and the slightly frightening fanatical members of the secret society all in their clearly defined roles as either the outright good or bad guys or caught up somewhere in the grey area of morality. But, and something that added a little spice to the story, not all these black and white characters stayed in their original colour assignments, and there was enough shifting about to keep you on your toes and really question every character's motives and interactions which kept a certain amount of suspense and mystery to the story's journey.
The second priority is to make sure our heroic characters are in as much peril as possible at all times to keep the thrills and excitement relentlessly coming. This book passes that test with flying colours as there is never really a dull moment, at least with our modern day characters, with fast paced drama including gunfights, explosions and death defying escapes in many exotic locations around the world intermingled with the (supposedly) spine tingling buzz of uncovering previously lost historical truths during the quieter moments to keep the plot flowing at breakneck speed - bearing in mind of course that you must suspend belief and choose to accept these discoveries as real to make it work. When the plot takes a trip back in time to Jesus Christ's story it takes on a much slower, fly-on-the-wall approach as a way to simply fill in the blanks of this historical conspiracy theory but the good thing about this is nothing is revealed in this timeline that you aren't able to guess in the modern day timeline so it doesn't spoil anything but is essential in making the story as plausible as possible to make sure there are no plot holes.
This is the third priority with these types of stories - the historical unearthing must be plausible at all costs - it doesn't have to be entirely believable, just entirely possible, and in this case, whilst taking on the ultimate foundation of Christianity and rewriting Jesus Christ's history (just a smidgeon) could be considered just plain madness in risking the alienation of a large percentage of the population that would be seriously put out if they (foolishly) believed this (fictitious) story to be true, hence I guess where the extreme controversy comes from. As an atheist though none of this rewritten history bothered me in the slightest, and frankly it was in some ways a more poignant story than the original Biblical telling and actually made more sense if you view the world from a scientific point of view so I found it completely plausible with no obvious plot holes that I could find. Of course, if it were true it would have catastrophic repercussions in the Christian world which in effect is the crux of this story, an exploration of how the uncovering of such a dangerous truth can cause shock waves around the world and the moral dilemma this causes for the discoverers with what to do with this new evidence.
So really this book delivers everything you'd expect from this type of genre - intrepid characters, action, adventure, romance, extreme peril and what I felt was a very well thought out plot despite the risky subject matter all in an incredibly readable and fast-paced way, and all to a surprisingly high standard given the title, which smacked of desperation in its attempts to lure (me) the suckers in, but perhaps it was all just to cover its ass from potential religious backlash. But this book is never really going to make it as big as one of, say, Dan Brown's now infamous "controversial" books, so I don't think it was ever in danger of that and I think it would have been better just to call itself "30 Pieces of Silver" as it would feel more credible that way. If you're looking for the next Pulitzer Prize you won't find it in this book (or probably this genre in general), but this is still a fairly intelligent and cleverly constructed story with all the right ingredients if you're looking purely for entertainment (and are not overly sensitive to religious issues) so I would definitely recommend this one - don't get put off by the over the top title.