Author: David Moore III
Publisher: Self published
I felt myself reeled into the plot of The Shroud right from the first page. There is something about mystery stories set in medieval times, particularly in monasteries, that I find quite appealing. They seem to be the perfect settings for mystery and suspense stories.
In The Shroud, David Moore III does full justice to the setting by giving us a story that intrigues us, from the first few pages of the opening chapter itself.
The story begins in 1046 AD in Italy when Brother David, a monk, makes a remarkable prophecy about an evil that will plague mankind in the future. Abbot Thomas, who is witness to the prophecy, records his testimony in a journal.
The Abbot’s journal is passed down the centuries as a brotherhood of monks pledges itself to rid the world of evil. Carlo is one such monk in the present day.
Centuries later, in the latter half of the 20th century, Roman Catholic priests Joseph, Anthony and Michael scrape a few blood shavings off the Shroud of Turin, a burial cloth revered for being the shroud of Jesus. They hire a German scientist, Gunther, who possesses specialised skills in cloning. The scientist succeeds in creating a clone, a little baby who is born with the DNA of Christ.
The priests hope that their attempts to hasten the Coming of Christ will usher in a new revolution of peace on earth. The hope is a fallacy, and the people involved with the exercise soon realise that they have erred greatly in taking matters in their own hands and trying to ‘create’ God.
As the cloned child, ironically named Christian, grows up, a series of suicides by people driven by him to take their own lives, wake the priests to the realisation that not only is Christian not God, he is, in fact, the anti-Christ, better known as Lucifer. These suicides, many by people who are rich and powerful, cause Christian’s stock to rise, and he becomes very powerful, a force to reckon with in the financial world.
And then Fathers Joseph and Anthony and nun Sister Mary Elizabeth are found murdered, their heads decapitated and placed on the altar, and their bodies hung upside down. Two sceptical cops from the New Orleans Police Department, detectives Danny and Stan, are called in to investigate the murders and find the killer. They interrogate Fr Michael in an attempt to make sense of the dastardly crimes.
But how can mere humans stop Lucifer? How can two cops who have lost their faith and a priest who has tried to play God make things right again?
The answer may lie in certain books that were not included in the Bible. A solution which might reveal the way to destroy the anti-Christ.
Hearkening back to the prophecy, Fr Michael learns that the shroud alone has the power to destroy Christian. When the shroud is stolen, it appears as if nothing can stop Lucifer, or the world from plunging into irrevocable disaster.
The book is certainly an edge-of-the-seat thriller and because it is based on a screenplay written by Joseph Patton Mashburn and Joseph Paul Ferina, the structure gives one the impression of actually watching a film. Moore beats time to the original in a remarkable way, with the added incentive of taking us into the minds of the characters, something film cannot do.
The scene with Fr Vincent in the archives at the Vatican is brilliant and causes your hair to stand on end. So strong is the air of menace that it exudes. The one-sided conversations between Christian and God in the nave of St Michael’s Church, the descriptions of Christian’s office on the 42nd floor and the events that take place there, as also the freak series of accidents wreaked by Christian in the park, are all very well executed. The confrontations with Christian are well written, and serve to create the image of a man who is ruthless yet suave, sophisticated and thoroughly malevolent and evil.
The book raises some questions worth pondering over. Living as we do in an age when cloning is more possible than ever before, what are the repercussions of trying to play God? It reminds us that our grandiose dreams might be capable of destroying all of humanity.
For a self published novel, this one is very good and barely shows the need for editing. The dialogues are particularly realistic and witty, especially those that are mouthed by Danny. The script also succeeds in bringing out the different personalities of the characters, particularly the arrogance of Christian. Even the receptionist working in Christian’s building has her own individual quirky style. Writing dialogue in a way that can help readers to identify the personality of each character is a tricky job, but Moore pulls it off well.
The only place he falters is when he begins to let us into the thoughts of characters. Setting them off in first person italics doesn’t quite achieve the purpose, making the whole effort look fake. They would have turned out better in third person indirect speech.
There are many times when a reading of the novel presupposes a basic knowledge of Christianity, but not knowing these facts would not take away from the thrill of reading this novel or the lesson it passes on.
And that lesson is that humans may boast of the technology, but that does not qualify them to play God.
I suggest you pick this one up.