The Secret Scroll by Ronald Cutler

A month or so ago, the publicist of writer Ronald Cutler offered to send me a review copy of his novel The Secret Scroll. I accepted on the conditions that I might not review it and the review might not be favorable. His publicist thought that was fair and put the book in the mail.

Kudos to his publicist for reaching out to bloggers and accepting my conditions. I wondered why she chose me, because other than my love of Israel where this book is set, this is not the type of book I ever read.

But read it I did.

In a night and a morning. It only took 5-6 hours total to zoom through the 336 pages of a book that is a cross between the DaVinci Code and Crossing Over with John Edward or The Medium.

We have a jilted archeologist, jilted by department politics, not a lover, who happens to be psychic. Not just psychic, but also with incredible healing powers. After a trip to Masada, he follows his visions into a cave where he discovers a vessel that might rock the world more than the Dead Sea Scrolls.

While I didn’t love the writing, perhaps I should have read it before reading Meir Shalev and not after, the story kept me turning the pages. There were holes in it, some of my questions after reading it are

1. What were the ages of the characters? I couldn’t figure out if the hero and heroine were in their 20s or 40s. If the other archeologists were in their 50s or 70s.

2. Where were the funerals? There is a lot of very violent death in this book, but no funerals or shivas. I have a problem with that because it takes place in Israel-the country takes these things seriously. You’re telling me that many high-ranking people could be murdered over the course of a week and there isn’t a single burial, shiva call, or journalist?

3. Why so many characters on the team? I only new Josh, Danielle, and Moshe well. The rest of them came and went and came and died and came and went so often, that I couldn’t be surprised by a death or betrayal or helping hand, because I couldn’t keep the characters straight.

4. How the hell did a US citizen buy two guns in one afternoon in Jerusalem? Why didn’t anyone ever question his amazing healing powers? Why wasn’t Mosad or Shin Bet interrogating him?

For me the book had a lot of holes… but what can I say? I also read it in two sittings, so the story moves. If you like books written in the style of the DaVinci Code–secret religious society, archeological mysteries, lots of intertwining relationship, some gore, and the promise of a follow-up book–then pick up The Secret Scroll.

UPDATE: I should have mentioned his publicist’s name. Lisa Roe does online publicity for authors and has a nice option where bloggers can request review copies of different books. And she did a great job of getting bloggers to review the book.

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