Friday, August 5, 2016

Julia Navarro - The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud

The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud is the explosive international bestseller that mixes fact and fiction to tell the riveting story of one of the world’s most controversial relics—the Holy Shroud of Turin—and the desperate race to save it from those who will stop at nothing to possess its legendary power....
A fire at the Turin cathedral and the discovery of a mutilated corpse are the latest in a disturbing series of events surrounding the mysterious cloth millions believe to be the authentic burial shroud of Jesus Christ. Those who dare to investigate will be caught in the cross fire of an ancient conflict forged by mortal sacrifice, assassination, and secret societies tied to the shadowy Knights Templar.
Spanning centuries and continents, from the storm-rent skies over Calvary, through the intrigue and treachery of Byzantium and the Crusades, to the modern-day citadels of Istanbul, New York, London, Paris, and Rome, The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud races to a chilling climax in the labyrinths beneath Turin, where astounding truths will be exposed: about the history of a faith, the passions of man, and proof of the most powerful miracle of all….

Comment: This is another one of the books I was lent by my Portuguese friend. Actually, I also have this book in one of my shelves at home but my edition is a paperback and the font is smaller. I didn't mind reading the HC edition and, well, it was a good excuse to finally get to it. It's been in the pile for more than 7 years. How shameful (but it was not the worst case)!

This book tells us the story of how the Holy Shroud, one of the Christianity most beloved relics, has come to be where it is and why.
A fire at the Cathedral where the relic is located is the starting point of this book, that crosses ages and historical facts to let us understand why anyone would be interested in having the Shroud, other than religious dedication. To investigate the fire and other things related to it, a team of police members and history experts arrives in Turin and what they start revealing can be dangerous for everyone, but why is it all such a secret?

This book follows the tradition of the adventurous historical based plot type of books we've come to look for and even enjoy since Dan Brown got famous. Even is books are older than his work, we still think of him as the starting point of the genre.
Here, ms Navarro has exploited the idea of the Holy Shroud, a relic that any Christian knows about and that has led people to worship it through time. Apparently, studies and the Church has accepted the fact the Shroud is not original, simply because the fabric was only made in the medieval times, like C-14 test has indicated.
In the novel, this is an idea most characters already have but the twist is something we can pretty much guess at some point.

The book can be divided in two different times, the contemporary investigation of the fire and the way characters learn more about contemporary activities and then the historical settings of how the Shroud begun and where it traveled to and why. This is not such a bad tactic but to be honest I always feel some reluctance in dual times plots because inevitably, I always prefer to read about one and not the other. In this case, both were interesting somehow but the contemporary investigation always interested me the most. One can say the historical parts explain some of the secrets of the contemporary parts but it got to a point where it just felt like information the author wanted to include but wouldn't make much sense otherwise.

For a while, the main characters interested me a lot, despite not really liking one of the main ones because her attitude and choices seemed wrong even if realistic. 
Then, the obvious mystery others enhanced here and there only made everything seem rather silly. It got better when a reporter arrived and started to ask questions. Close to the end the contemporary part, the one I was more and more eager to see solved, feel flat because it was excessively melodramatic and the end was one of the most indecisive endings I saw. I mean, the mystery stayed on, people got hurt and nothing really was solved or came to a conclusive decision. How disappointing, after so many pages, the end is like that!

I guess I can understand why the author took this path. Some things do sound better if we don't have all the answers. But then why bother, this would have suited a non fiction essay much better, or even a book without the conspiracy elements in there because the reality is that it promised a lot, I wanted to see how the "good guys" would solve things or what would happen, this is a fictional tale after all, but then...we get a conversation at the end between protagonists and we learn what has happened in the last chapter, things we didn't have full access to. It was a let down. 
Because of this, the book only rates average to me. It wasn't so bad but the end ruined it for me.
Grade: 5/10

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