I am a huge fan of James Rollins thrillers. I literally cannot wait for them and so as soon as I heard about The Blood Gospel I ordered in the American edition. What turned up was a huge paperback for the visually-impaired. As a result, I could certainly see it but I could barely lift it. A small price to pay.
The first thing to note is that The Blood Gospel is not part of the excellent Sigma series. It is completely different. Co-written with Rebecca Cantrell, whose work I am not familiar with, it is a mystery thriller with a supernatural twist. Normally, this would be enough to put me off, especially when I learned that this was a novel about vampires. But, and this is a huge but, wipe from your mind images of the sparkly and painfully tragic undead. This is nothing like that at all. In fact, The Blood Gospel is my favourite thriller of 2013 so far and it will take a lot to knock it off that pedestal.
From the very beginning it is clear that the reader is going to have to hang on tight. The novel opens at Masada, the desert fortress in Israel which was the site of a mass suicide by the last of the Jewish rebels to hold out against the might of Rome in the 1st century AD. An earthquake devastates the ruins, revealing a hidden temple containing the crucified remains of a mummified girl and unleashing something else into the air. The remains are investigated by military forensic expert Jordan Stone, archaeologist Erin Granger and Vatican priest Father Rhun Korza. It’s not long before the three are on the run, propelled on a chase to discover what was once in the girl’s sarcophagus and is now lost – a gospel believed to contain the words of Christ himself. Stone and Granger are soon caught in a war between two breeds of eternals – the Sanguines and the Strigoi – which takes them to the religious heart of Rome as well as the evil centres of Europe. Each must reclaim the words of Christ.
As with all thrillers of this type, you need to suspend your powers of disbelief. If you manage that, as I did almost instantly, then you’ll find yourself on a thriller rollercoaster that merges history with the supernatural. We follow the three heroes across Europe, making stops in Rome, Germany and St Petersburg, incorporating familiar figures from history, throwing light or darkness on religious rituals from the past 2,000 years, resurrecting demons from the deepest wells of horror, fighting for life, death and worse, and having an absolute blast of a time!
James Rollins writes thrillers exceptionally well. The Blood Gospel is no different. The characters are all entertainingly real, with the expected added frisson of love, lust and jealousy done well. There are three heroes after all – none wants to be the one left out. The locations are well realised and the mystery itself is a corker. Above all else, though, The Blood Gospel is a very well-written and brilliantly plotted thriller, completely preposterous and utterly gripping. Rebecca Cantrell is, one suspects, the reason for the supernatural edge but it works well with Rollins’ style. This is also a substantial book. There are enough pages here to consume you for more than a couple of days.
I was left wanting much, much more and I’m delighted to hear that this is the first in a planned series. Great characters, fantastic story, full of excitement and packed with passion. What more can you ask from a thriller? Marvellous!