Saturday, July 14, 2012

Second Time Around: The Gospel of St. Luke

A while back, I blogged about a novel that's based on one of the books from the Old Testament. It's only fair to give equal space to a novel that's based on one of the books of the New Testament -- one of the most well-known and beloved, in fact.

The Original 

The Gospel of St. Luke, often titled simply Luke in the New Testament, details the life and times of Jesus Christ. No matter what you happen to believe, you're familiar with the unusual story surrounding his birth: a young, virginal girl is visited by an angel. The angel tells her that she will bear a Messiah, the son of God Himself, through immaculate conception.

Mary, the young girl who is chosen for this task, faces censure and trouble. Her husband, Joseph, proves to be an understanding man. He takes his wife away to have her baby, which they'll raise together, and the infant is born in a manger because they can find no shelter at he inn.

More than two thousand years later, this event is still celebrated around the world as the holiday of Christmas, the birth of Christ. It's celebrated on December 25 annually, though many scholars agree that if Jesus was an actual person he was most likely born in the summer time. Whether or not you celebrate it, you're familiar with the original story. You probably don't know much about the much more modern remake.

The Remake

It's bold to re-make a story that's two thousand years old. To re-tell a story that billions of people are familiar with...that's downright crazy. But this is what John Case does in The Genesis Code.

The book stars, appropriately, in a small church in a little Italian town. A parish priest is going about his usual day, but his whole world changes when he takes the confession of a world-famous physician. The priest immediately makes the journey to Vatican City.

Over in America, an entrepreneur named Joe Lassister is about to have his world shattered, too. The head of a successful investigative firm, Joe receives a middle-of-the-night phone call to tell him that his only sister and his nephew are both dead due to a tragic house fire. An as-yet-unidentified man was also involved in the tragedy, suffering tramatic burns while trying to escape the scene. Joe knows something is wrong immediately, and begins to use all his considerable resources to unravel the strange mystery.

Joe soon discovers that his sister Kathy and nephew Brandon aren't the first mother and son to die in tragic house fires recently. He begins working backward until he discovers the clinic where Kathy was treated for infertility and artificial insemination, and learns that every other woman treated at the clinic has perished.

Every other woman...except for one. Joe attempts to track down the sole survivor and her child, a quest that's complicated by the fact that the former patient is also a former celebrity. Once an up-and-coming Hollywood actress, the patient has dropped out of the public eye and into deep cover. Joe at lasts locates the woman, who is calling herself Marie, after an exhaustive search.

He has no way of knowing that, one the other side of the world, the Vatican is already buzzing with things Joe hasn't yet begun to understand. There is a small religious sect at work within the walls of the Holy See, and they're protecting some pretty frightening secrets. The man who is still recovering from his terrible burns is actually a hired hitman...and a devout religious fanatic.

How does it all tie into the original book that inspired this modern-day remake/retelling? If I tell you that, I'll give away the best parts of the mystery (and you know how I love mysteries). Suffice it to say that by the final page of the book, you'll definitely understand. The Genesis Code is part re-telling of an old story, but it's thoroughly modern and its story is completely new. It's chilling, it's mysterious, it's well-paced -- it's an all-around great read, whether or not you're a fan of the Bible.

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