Tag Archives: Ian Caldwell

Review: The Fifth Gospel, by Ian Caldwell

The Fifth Gospel

I decided to pick up The Fifth Gospel by Ian Caldwell because I’d read The Rule of Four, which Caldwell co-wrote with Dustin Thomason, a while back and really enjoyed it. And Caldwell definitely didn’t fail me with The Fifth Gospel. The quick review? I enjoyed it. A lot.

Here’s what it’s about:

In 2004, as Pope John Paul II’s reign enters its twilight, a mysterious exhibit is under construction at the Vatican Museums. A week before it is scheduled to open, its curator is murdered at a clandestine meeting on the outskirts of Rome. That same night, a violent break-in rocks the home of the curator’s research partner, Father Alex Andreou, a Greek Catholic priest who lives inside the Vatican with his five-year-old son. When the papal police fail to identify a suspect in either crime, Father Alex, desperate to keep his family safe, undertakes his own investigation. To find the killer he must reconstruct the dead curator’s secret: what the four Christian gospels—and a little-known, true-to-life fifth gospel known as the Diatessaron—reveal about the Church’s most controversial holy relic. But just as he begins to understand the truth about his friend’s death and its consequences for the future of the world’s two largest Christian Churches, Father Alex finds himself hunted down by someone with a vested stake in the exhibit—someone he must outwit to survive.

Readers who see the title The Fifth Gospel might, understandably, think the novel is a Da Vinci Code kind of read. It isn’t. Sure, there’s a lost gospel and an ancient holy relic, but the similarities end there. If you’ve read any of Dan Brown’s novels, you’ll know they clip along at near-breakneck speeds. They are definitely fast rides, and the thrill is entirely in the plot.

The Fifth Gospel, while highly readable and entertaining, has so much more. In addition to the lost gospel and the ancient, controversial holy relic, there’s also a murder mystery and a lot of Vatican politics and intrigue. And at its core, the novel is the story of two brothers, one a Roman Catholic priest, the other a Greek Catholic priest with a five-year-old son.

While definitely a page turner—it is, after all, a thriller—the writing has a literary feel to it. There are some beautifully written passages throughout. This, for example, on the gravity of a priest being laicized: “This is what gives the sentence such power: it turns us into ghosts. It obligates the world to deny our existence.”

In the Acknowledgments, Caldwell notes it took him ten years to write the novel, and the extensive research he performed is something that takes the book to a whole other level. There’s no info dump going on here; details are revealed to us within the lives of the characters and the setting in which they live. We become immersed in the world of the Vatican, that small, walled country so few of us know anything about.

I learned a lot about so many things: ways of reading the gospels, the rift between Catholicism and Orthodoxy, the Eastern Catholics, how the Vatican is run. Yet I didn’t realize I was learning these things until after I finished the book, because none of it is fed to us as information. It all forms a solid part of the story itself.

If you like a thriller or mystery that does more than drive you quickly through the pages, you should definitely add The Fifth Gospel to your to-read list.

Snapshot: May 12, 2015

Time: 10:42 p.m.

Feeling: Tired. And you know, it occurs to me I’ve been saying this in every one of my Snapshot posts lately. Really need to do something about that!

Eating: I’ve decided that this month of small healthy changes should include eating more veggies. Starting today. For lunch I had zucchini and mushroom soup and for dinner I had celery, green pepper and mushrooms (with a chicken burger, no bun). So I think I can say I did pretty well today.

Drinking: A glass of malbec.

Reading: I finished The Fifth Gospel and now Ward is reading it (I’m no longer calling him the book-reading demon because after that first month of being a super reader, he’s not been anywhere near as diligent and in fact can be found most nights watching something on his laptop rather than curled up with a good book. Ah well, it was good while it lasted).

The Fifth Gospel was really good, so now I’m looking for a good novel to follow in its footsteps.

And I am woefully behind on each of the three readalongs I was doing. So far behind, my reading of each of the books has been virtually non-existent.

Listening: I just finished listening to Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography, which was a very fun audiobook. As with most celebrity memoirs in audio where the celebrity is also the narrator, I’m very glad I did this one in audio format.

And today I started listening to this:

jurassic park

A couple of months ago I was looking around for an audio version of Jurassic Park, both on my library’s digital reads site and also at Audible. And it turned out it wasn’t available as an audiobook (other than as a CD set). Then I noticed Audible had a pre-order notice on it—and today I received an email saying it was now available. Of course I just had to get it, since it’s been on my mind for a few months now.

I’m not too thrilled with the narrator, who reads in a manner that’s a little too dramatic for my taste. But the story itself is pulling me in; it’s been a long time since I read this book, so I’m really looking forward to this reread.

Writing: Need I say it? Nothing. But I’m hoping my new mechanical keyboard will make a difference over the coming days.

Working: I’ve got an index due tomorrow, and I’ve finally stepped fully into my new book marketing position—I’ll post more about it later this week. So right now I’m knee deep in developing marketing and social media plans, and it’s so much fun coming up with ideas.

Creating: Nothing, but I’m hoping that will change. When I get a bit more time.

And about that zombie apocalypse: So on our way home from his hip hop classes, I had the following conversation with Dylan:

Dylan: I’ve been learning how to eat slowly.

Me: Oh, that’s good. Why?

Dylan: In case there might potentially be a zombie apocalypse.

Me: Why would you need to eat slowly if there’s a zombie apocalypse?

Dylan: Because there won’t be any stores or anything. So if you get an apple or something, you can’t eat it all at once. You have to make it last.

Me: Ah. I see.

So that’s been my day/week. How has yours been?

Reading journal: a novel I can’t put down

It’s been a while since I’ve read a novel I just couldn’t put down (although, life being what it is, I did eventually have to put it down). I love when this happens, though, because it usually means I’ve got a seriously good read going.

 

The Fifth Gospel

I’d picked up Ian Caldwell’s The Fifth Gospel because Caldwell had co-authored The Rule of Four with Dustin Thomason and I remembered quite enjoying The Rule of Four.

Going into it, I hadn’t realized The Fifth Gospel would be one of those books that are tough to put down. I mean, it sounded like it would be good, but lots of good books aren’t necessarily ones you can’t put down.

Here’s the summary:

In 2004, as Pope John Paul II’s reign enters its twilight, a mysterious exhibit is under construction at the Vatican Museums. A week before it is scheduled to open, its curator is murdered at a clandestine meeting on the outskirts of Rome. That same night, a violent break-in rocks the home of the curator’s research partner, Father Alex Andreou, a Greek Catholic priest who lives inside the Vatican with his five-year-old son. When the papal police fail to identify a suspect in either crime, Father Alex, desperate to keep his family safe, undertakes his own investigation. To find the killer he must reconstruct the dead curator’s secret: what the four Christian gospels—and a little-known, true-to-life fifth gospel known as the Diatessaron—reveal about the Church’s most controversial holy relic. But just as he begins to understand the truth about his friend’s death and its consequences for the future of the world’s two largest Christian Churches, Father Alex finds himself hunted down by someone with a vested stake in the exhibit—someone he must outwit to survive.

I’m halfway through, and while I have a busy week coming up, I’m hoping I’ll be able to grab some time to finish it.

And while the title and the synopsis might make you think, “oh, another Da Vinci Code kind of read”, I’m here to say, no, it’s actually not a Da Vinci Code kind of book at all.

I’ll be writing a review of this one, so stay tuned! I just have to finish it first—and even with all my upcoming deadlines, I’m definitely going to find the time to sit down with this one and finish it.

Snapshot: May 5, 2015

Time: 9:38 pm

Feeling: Tired, but in a good way—I actually worked out today! Yay! While I’ve been talking about doing ten minute workouts, I decided to go with Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred. Figured I might as well go with the tried and true. We’ll see how it goes.

When I’m exercising, I have this tendency to visualize my body getting into shape (by this I mean I actually see in my mind’s eye, for example, my upper arms getting toned, as if I’m watching a time-lapse video)—I don’t do this intentionally, it just kind of happens. It’s good in that it keeps me motivated, but not so good because I end up with very high expectations! I actually expected my pants to be a bit loose today when I put them on. Which they weren’t, of course.

Eating: I was so good all day! Had a banana for breakfast, spinach and green peppers with a chicken burger (no bun) for lunch. Then souvlaki made with chicken, a big Greek salad and a small portion of Greek rice for dinner. But (you knew this was coming, right?) I was still hungry when I finished (it was only one stick of souvlaki—that’s my excuse, anyway) so now I’m noshing on a slice of cheese pizza. Sigh.

Drinking: A glass of wine. Ahhhh. Yes, it does go well with pizza!

Reading: I finished Lowcountry Boneyard by Susan M. Boyer on the weekend (review coming this Thursday). It was a good read, and as usually happens after a good read, I dived into a number of books to find the right one for my next read.

Here’s what I decided to read next:

fifthgospel.jpg

I’m just in the first chapter but it’s looking pretty good so far.

Listening: I just finished a reread of John Grisham’s The Pelican Brief; it was published back in 1992 but doesn’t feel too outdated. I must admit, though, I didn’t quite get why Darby was still being targeted by the bad guys once it was clear that her brief (the pelican brief) had been circulated among several FBI agents plus the White House. I don’t remember pondering such a question way back when I originally read it in print, so perhaps I missed something in my listening of it this time around (it happens sometimes—I find when you’re listening to an audiobook, you can get distracted for 30 seconds and miss something quite important). The version I listened to is narrated by the lovely Lorelei King, one of my favourite narrators.

Writing: Nope. Nothing. But I’m hopeful, as always.

Working: I had a big index due last week, and some articles due this week. But things are looking pretty clear for the next week or so, which is good since my mom’s being discharged from the rehab facility on Thursday and she’s decided to go back to her place rather than stay with me. So I’m not too sure what my days will be like for the next little while, and not having too many deadlines will let me figure out my time without too much stress.

Excited about: A while back I signed up for the SmithsonianX course “The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact On Pop Culture” on edX, and it started today! Stan Lee is one of the instructors. Yes.

Now I just have to figure out how to make time for it …