THE MOSES EXPEDITION is a fast-paced thriller of sorts. It isn’t quite on the level of the Jason Bourne books when Robert Ludlum was writing them but it isn’t the DAVINCI CODE either. It doesn’t pretend to be real. Gomez-Jurado isn’t trying to re-write the history of any of the major faiths born in the middle east.
It does open with a poem that should be read by everyone and discussed with children. The poem is HOW TO CREATE AN ENEMY by Sam Keen. It is a list of the steps to take to dehumanize any one who is “other”. The next page is a list of the Ten Commandments.
The story begins, as so many of these thrillers do, with a couple walking toward a hospital in Vienna in February 1943. Josef and Odile Cohen are bringing their last possession as an offering to Dr. Graus, hoping that he will take it in exchange for their son’s life. They are carrying a large candle, without a wick, that is covered in gold filigree. Doctor Graus tells them their son is dead orders them away and keeps the candle. He then reports to the SS that he has seen a Jewish couple trying to flee through the streets. Graus then prepares to perform surgery on their son without the benefit of anesthesia.
Chapter 1 begins in Doctor Graus’s home in Austria on December 15, 2005. Father Anthony Fowler, an American priest, a confidant of popes, a paratrooper, a speaker of more languages than people want to count, and a member of the Holy Alliance, the pope’s CIA, KGB, FBI, MI 6, and Mossad all rolled into one, has found Graus despite his name change and the poverty of his existence. Father Fowler knows Graus has the candle and Graus knows that he has no choice but to produce it.
“Now the precious metal has almost disappeared, leaving only traces of filigree on the wax….’The pawnshop took the rest, Father.’ Fowler didn’t reply. He took out a lighter from his pants pocket and flicked it on. Then he stood the candle upright on the table and brought the flame to the top of it. Although there was no wick, the heat of the flame began to melt the wax….’Appearances can be deceptive, Graus. The gold on this candle is not the treasure I’m after. It’s only a distraction for idiots.”
The treasure, of course, isn’t the real treasure. It is half of the Copper Scroll of Qumran and when it is matched with its other half it will lead to the most powerful object in history. Cue Indiana Jones and the story is off and running. Like any good thriller, it needs dastardly people who will do anything to possess the most powerful object in history. The most dastardly person needs to be a billionaire to the nth degree. Here, insert Howard Hughes. Father Fowler, a man in his fifties, isn’t exactly Indiana Jones; he has better sources. After all, this is the 21st century so he has things better than a whip at his disposal. Oh, and there is also the requisite female reporter who has no sense and the person who isn’t what he/she appears to be. If there were snakes, I blocked them out.
There are Israelis and there are Muslims who belong to a secret cell that might be attached to al-Quida and there are Catholic priests who are some of the best hackers currently working in secret cells (the real kind) under the Roman catacombs and you have everything that can be found in every book of this type written in the last twenty years.
Any reader who enjoys thrillers will enjoy this book. This is not what I read most often but I am fascinated by books in which the actions are moved along by deeds done by the Nazis nearly eighty years ago. There can never be too many reminders that a peace-loving, educated, literate society fell for the bombast of an Austrian who had failed at everything he had tried until he brain-washed a nation, re-worked the map of Europe, handed eastern Europe to the Soviet Union, and called for the deaths of tens of millions of people, including those that had handed him the reins of power.