The Blood Gospel: The Order of the Sanguines Series, by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell (Harper Collins Publishes, 2013, 479 pages)
As one hundred cardinals convene in secret behind ancient walls to elect a new pope, it is a great time to pick up a novel about secret goings on in the Vatican featuring a group of monks whose job it is to fight evil, romps through the Vatican tombs, and an array of monsters set upon destroying anything that gets in their way in their pursuit of a book known in legend as The Blood Gospel .
In this book you will meet monsters thought long dead but still alive in pursuit of …well, something: Elizabeth Bathory, aka the “Blood Countess,” still alive and in hot pursuit of settling a score with an older love, a monk named Rhun, who now battles on the side of good. Gregori Rasputin, the “mad monk,” also aligned on the side of evil. And there are hosts of scary creatures called “strigoi,” big mean critters who can however be stopped by a bullet through the head fortunately. Oh, there’s a hungry bear who lives in a cage just waiting for Rasputin to turn him loose on some unsuspecting soul. And Elizabeth has a pet wolf, one who lavishes attention on her and eats anyone she sets him upon.
But in The Blood Gospel we meet a secret sect called the Sanguinists (can you say “secret sect of sanguinists” real fast five times without spitting?) whose sworn duty for all time is to fight the evil. You know, sort of like “The Avengers” only with a holy mission.
An earthquake at Masada, site of the mass suicide of Jews in their desperate attempt to avoid slaughter by the Romans, sets this whole story in motion when a crucified woman is discovered under ground. Alive. Centuries old but alive. Go figure. A dedicated archeologist, a solider, and a cardinal are pulled into the mystery as they search for the Blood Gospel of Jesus Christ,a book whose meaning seems in the final analysis less important than the drama surrounding it.
This book has many inspirations, not the least of which is Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, but there are shades of “The Mummy,” with its moments of witty repartee. Oh, and Raiders of the Lost Ark comes to mind, since there are Nazis that pop up in here as well. “John Carpenter’s Vampires” comes to mind as well, with James Woods as a vampire hunter employed by the Vatican. One gets the impression that the authors–who writes very well incidentally–took a little of this, a little of that, threw it all into one big pot, stirred it up and threw it against the wall. The result is what you might expect: a mish-mash that, while it purports to explain may traditions in the Catholic Church, leaves me wondering why I spent good money on it. It should have left me breathless. But it just left me waiting for the next novel by Dan Brown, who can pull these books off better than any of the various copy cats.
That said, I did make it all the way through. Something kept me reading. Oh, I know! The devil made me do it!
Copyright Isaac Morris 2013