Book of Judas (Alessandra Russo #2), by Linda Stasi

Seven stars

In her follow-up novel, Linda Stasi returns to offer readers another religious thriller sure to shake the core of some believers. It is rumoured that a collection of ancient papers was found in Egypt during the mid-1970s, including the lost Gospel of Judas. The leather-bound codex made its way to the United States and was stored in a New York safe deposit until 2000, when someone sought to gaze upon this lost treasure. All that was left were thousands of disintegrated scraps, useless and impossible to cobble back together. However, when journalist Alessandra Russo receives a call from her best friend, Roy Golden, there may be some new evidence in relation to the Gospel. It would seem that Roy’s father, a former bank manager, lifted some of the pages back in the early 1980s and locked them away in a protective tube. Admitting this on his deathbed, the elder Golden left his son with the burden of trying to decide what to do, though did caution that trying to open the tube erratically could destroy the only documented evidence about Judas and his connection to Jesus. Splashing the news online, Russo allows her friend to bask in the glory, but is also curious about trying to read this sacred text. She reaches out to a contact in Israel, who has brokered a deal with the Vatican, in hopes of claiming the document for themselves. With a steep price tag, Russo is happy to help her friend make a profit while ensuring the information does not fall into the wrong hands. However, Roy is arrested and charged with a spree of murders, leaving him incarcerated and Russo in a panic. The only way she can pay his bail is to liquidate the codex swiftly, which may require her to fly to the other side of the world sooner than she anticipated. Juggling the responsibility of raising her son, Terry, Russo has her parents making their way back to New York, but leaves the little one with her older neighbours, who leap at the chance to help. Arriving in Israel, Russo tries to connect with her source, though soon discovers that not all is as it seems. She races around the Holy Land trying to find clues to properly unlock the codex, only to learn that Terry has gone missing. Torn between unveiling the news about the codex and her son’s safety, Russo rushes back to New York, but is forced to hand over the codex in the ensuing rush to save Terry. Could the scholarly rumours of the contents of the Gospel of Judas be true? Might Jesus have concocted a scheme with his closest friend to mislead an entire religion? Russo cannot risk letting this information fall into the wrong hands and turn Christianity on its head. A well-written piece by Stasi, who injects just the right amount of humour to keep the reader curious. Those who enjoy religious thrillers that question some of the central tenets of established religion may find this one to their liking.

I remember reading Stasi’s debut novel, though admit that my extensive list of completed novels has left me unable to recall the specifics of the plot. That being said, Stasi does a decent job of retelling some of the poignant parts of the backstory so that the reader can almost recollect the details of that novel. She has Alessandra Russo still established in her journalistic capacity, but also trying to acclimate to the life of a new mother. This has not put a damper on her inquisitive side and sees Russo tossing herself into the middle of another far-off adventure. Working with a few other central characters, Russo is able to fuel an interesting storyline that has the narrative evolving with each passing chapter. Of interest to me is the discussion about this Gospel of Judas and what implications it might bring forth to modern discussion. While not as earth shattering as some of the other novels I’ve read in this genre, the narrative forces the reader to surmise what problems might arise if the Church were to be faced with downplaying the revelations. As always, the Catholic Church (read: Early Church) takes it on the nose for trying to alter the biblical narrative to fit their needs, but one can only suspect that Stasi has mixed factual information with some of her own fictional interpretations to keep the reader enthused throughout. The writing was decent, full of off-hand humour, but did not come across as well founded as I might have preferred. There was a lack of crispness with the written delivery and the plot seemed to sag at times, while addressing some high-impact events or turning points in the story. All that being said, there was much effort put into this novel and Stasi has done well to offer the reader an enjoyable piece, perfect for their summer reading pile.

Kudos, Madam Stasi, for another interesting piece. I can see some of your author influences in the writing style you present and hope you’ll continue honing your skill.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: