Michael Byrnes : The Sacred Bones : Book Review



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What if Joseph of Arimethiaís bones and those of his family were discovered in ossuaries (small coffins meant to hold a dead personís bones) in a hidden room beneath the Temple Mount, whose location was detailed in a book of secrets penned by the one-time leader of the Knights Templar, Jacques DeMolay? What if, besides these ossuaries, there was a tenth, containing the bones of Jesus Christ? Also, what if there were signs he was crucified, but that his knee caps were broken, and there was no indication heíd been either pierced in the side nor had worn a crown of thorns? Would your faith, if you are a Christian, be shaken or destroyed? If you like reading suspenseful books about this sort of topic, in the vein of The DaVinci Code, youíll probably like reading a novel that asks the above questions, The Sacred Bones, by Michael Byrnes.

Is The Sacred Bones as good as The DaVinci Code? It is unfair to compare the two. Iíd say I liked reading the former more, and the latter bothered me with its (at first) seeming inconsistencies with the Biblical story of Jesus Christ; but, the arguments it presents are compelling, whether you ultimately agree that they are strong enough to sway your opinions one way or the other on this controversial subject. Also, The Sacred Bones is fairly well researched - you can tell by the descriptions of Jerusalem and the Vatican City which the author writes, including street names and famous places, that he either has done his homework very well, or heís lived in or visited these places and has taken a lot of notes on them. This inclusion of facts is always a help in the suspension of belief necessary to get into a work of fiction.

One criticism I read of The Sacred Bones is that it has no hero. That is not really true - it could be said that it has, rather, multiple heroes. One of them is the level-headed Palestinian Rajak bin Ahmid bin al-Tahini, who is a member of the Waqf, a group of Arabic people who had managed the Dome of the Rock Mosque and the Temple Mount since "the thirteenth century." When other members of the Waqf lean towards blaiming the Israelis for the break-in of the hidden room at the Mosque by a paramilitary team using C4 explosives and an Israeli Blackhawk helicopter bought from the United States, Rajak (who is one of the people investigating the incident) tells them they shouldnít jump to conclusions and should wait to act until all of the facts are in. I found it refreshing to read about a heroic person in an ethnic group generally more associated with, in literature and movies, terrorist activities.

Also, the characters of the Englishman Graham Barton, the American geneticist Charlotte Hennessy, and the Italian Doctor Giovanni Bersei, who had often assisted the Vatican in the past with various cases, could be thought of as heroes in the novel. Each plays an important role in uncovering the truth behind the skeleton, which winds up at the Vatican City. The science of genetics and the unraveling of the skeletonís DNA offer more evidence and weight to the controversial conclusions arrived at in the novel, though I am still not personally swayed by the arguments presented.

The Sacred Bones is a fast-paced book that is controversial, suspenseful, and one which people who liked Dan Brownís The DaVinci Code will probably also enjoy. There have been, though, IMHO, too many books of late which have exploited the use of the Knights Templar and Jacques DeMolay. I donít claim to have read all of them - I know there are many more than I have read, though - but, for instance, thereís The Witchesí Hammer by Jane Stanton Hitchcock, Up In Honeyís Room by Elmore Leonard, and the YA novel, Grimpow. Jacques DeMolayís fame is greater now, it would seem, than at any other time in history.

The problem is, of course, that DeMolay is not alive to either prove or refute any statements made about him or his actions, so he is a convenient vehicle to promulgate any theories any author wants to propose. Still, thatís not to say that The Sacred Bones isnít a good book - it is - just, as with Dan Brownís book, realize itís a work of fiction, and if you agree with its arguments, great, and if you donít, so be it - appreciate it or donít for other reasons.



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