GOSPEL TRUTHSby J.G. Sandom
They have been drawn into a plot more insidious than anything they could have imagined—a battle to control one of religion’s greatest secrets. For English detective Nigel Lyman, it begins with the suspicious suicide of a corrupt Italian banker in London. For French-born Mariane Soury-Fontaine, it starts with the mysterious disappearance of her lover. And for American mathematician Joseph Koster, the search leads through France’s soaring cathedrals to the baffling labyrinths that masons once carefully inscribed in their floors.
These strangers are about to crack a code that dozens have died for, a puzzle whose power reaches back to the birth of the Christian faith, through the echoing halls of the Vatican, and to the dark, corrupt realms of organized crime. Now staying alive is the ultimate challenge. Because the next revelation is the most forbidden of all . . .
- Random House Publishing Group
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By J.G. Sandom
BantamCopyright © 2007 J.G. Sandom
All right reserved.
August 10th, 1991
He was late, or everyone else was early once again. Nigel Lyman dug his elbows into his sides and leaned into the morning, moving with the cadence of a military parade. He was not a particularly tall man, but there was a solidity about his body, a tightness of the neck and shoulders, that lent itself by nature to this kind of grim, determined walk. He moved as if to prove the definition of a line.
A fierce breeze plucked the rain, and as Lyman walked he pointed his umbrella at a dozen different clouds, jabbing at the fickle wind. The sidewalk was almost empty. Most of the city was at work already, save for a few resilient shoppers, the tardy secretaries, the intentionally lost. The street coursed dreamily along, the shop walls rising to the rain, the gray slate roofs and grayer sky of London.
Lyman turned off the street and entered the police station. A small crowd waited by the lift. He passed them with a terse hello, and noticed–as he headed for the stairwell at the back–that a line of water trailed his wet umbrella down the hall. It was going to be one of those days, again.
He took the steps two at a time, trying to ignore the dark familiar landmarks of the first few floors, the sergeant constable on duty, the holding cells, the paperwork policemen, where Dotty Taylor worked with rows and rows of numbers in accounting.
Whenhe reached the fourth floor, he stopped and took his scarf and coat off, dropping them delicately across a battery of pipes near the door. Then he hung up his umbrella, the bent spoke closest to the wall.
No one gave him much more than a passing glance as he entered the office, but Lyman knew they registered his presence. It was almost ten A.M. Some were just too polite, he thought, too bloody shy, or too embarrassed to say anything. Some really didn't care. And then there were the rest, who hoped that one day his apparent lack of gumption would be noticed but who refused to drag his failings from the shadows by themselves, afraid perhaps that adding peccadillos to his already damning sins might seem vindictive.
He walked between the rows of desks. Eight policemen shared the office, and most sat with their faces turned away, trying not to look at Lyman. Some read reports with studied concentration. Some talked in whispers on the telephone.
Lyman sat down at his metal desk. It was the tidiest in the room, the surface empty save for an ancient telephone, an ashtray, and a battered old PC.
"Starting early," Inspector Blackwell said beside him.
Lyman turned, facing Blackwell and the open window. It was always open, sun or snow. He reached into his pocket, removed a tin of licorice, and popped one in his mouth.
"By the by," continued Blackwell, "Chief Superintendent Cocksedge wants to see you. As soon as you come in. Hello. Are you there?"
Lyman frowned. "When did Cocksedge poke around?"
"Poke?" Blackwell's eyebrows seemed to skate across his forehead. "The detective chief superintendent does not poke. His representatives may poke. He delegates. He confers."
"Just answer the question, Blackwell."
"He sent the Lemur down at nine."
"Thanks," Lyman answered in a kind of cough. His head hurt. It had hurt since late last night, or even longer. He pushed his chair away from the desk.
"I won fifty pounds in the football pool yesterday," Blackwell crowed.
Lyman ran his fingers through his hair. It was still thick, just grayer round the edges, like burnt paper. "Good for bloody you."
"Now I can pay you back that twenty quid."
Lyman straightened his suit jacket. "Wrong again, Blackwell. It's I owe you."
Inspector Blackwell smiled. "There you go," he said. "Clever lad. And when exactly, if I may ask, are you going to pay me?"
Lyman glanced down at his shoes. They were soaked through. He turned and headed for the door.
"Give him our best," Blackwell called after him. "And don't forget my money."
Detective Chief Superintendent of Police Brian R. Cocksedge, late of the Royal Navy, was fond of quoting Siegfried Sassoon in a dramatic baritone whenever he was struck by the oppressive realization that Man was, comparatively speaking, barely out of the trees of Africa. At times, especially when he had been upstaged again by the New Scotland Yard, he would stand firmly in the doorway of his office, pitching his voice at no one in particular. " 'When the first man,' " he'd cry, " 'who wasn't quite an ape/ Felt magnanimity and prayed for more, /The world's redemption stood, in human shape, /With darkness done and betterment before.' "
Nigel Lyman reflected on this as he waited for the lift. He had never really cared for Siegfried Sassoon. To him redemption was a dubious exercise, an almost Arthurian quest, one which had little to do with real human motivation, and therefore even less to do with crime.
He pressed the button for the lift again and uttered a faithless prayer that the chief superintendent was not in one of his discoursing moods again. Indeed, he thought, given a choice between a grim oration and a short farewell, he would prefer the door. What else could it mean? he asked himself. It was amazing he had lasted quite this long. The lift doors creaked open.
The chief superintendent's secretary, Mrs. Clanger, eyed him with a codlike, blinkless stare. "Ah, Mr. Lyman," she said. "Are you absolutely sure you have the time? I mean, after all." She looked at her wide-faced watch.
Lyman tried to usher up the smile of a conspirator. "Sorry I'm late. I had an early meeting across the river."
Mrs. Clanger did not soften. A moment passed, and finally she poked her vintage intercom and announced his presence.
"Right. Send him through," the chief superintendent bellowed in response.
Lyman walked briskly across the room and opened the door. The chief superintendent's office was cluttered and ill lit, but Lyman took in the details with a single practiced glance: an overfull metal file cabinet; a faded rose-and-foliage shade atop a standing lamp; several photographs in neat walnut frames, mostly old navy friends and famous personages; a sizable portrait of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, artist unknown; a rugger ribbon; an honorary degree from Bristol University; green curtains, standard issue; and a massive coatrack and umbrella stand, barely visible beneath several coats of various weights and textures.
Detective Chief Superintendent Cocksedge stood at the window behind his desk, staring out into the wet gray street. Lollipop crosswalk lights blinked on and off below, lending his already waxy countenance an orange patina. "Nasty, isn't it," he said, pulling at his narrow mustache.
"All week," Lyman answered.
"Yes. All week." Suddenly Cocksedge turned fully round. His face was long and pale, with a pair of creases running up and down both sides of his forehead, like poorly sewn seams. "Good for pike fishing though, eh, Lyman?" He took a reluctant step toward his desk. "It says here you're a . . ." His hand flipped through a file. "A 'fisherman of some experience,' whatever that means. Surely every boy in England over five years old is a fisherman of 'some experience.' What do those people in personnel do all day? It's beyond me, I'm sure."
Lyman remained silent.
Chief Superintendent Cocksedge sighed loudly. He pulled his chair out and sat formally behind his desk. "I'll be honest with you, Lyman. You're in a bloody mess."
"I know, sir."
The chief superintendent raised a hand. "Don't interrupt me, dammit. I'm trying to help you, Lyman. I'm on your side." He turned to the beginning of what Lyman gathered was his file.
There was that picture of his ex-wife, Jackie, on her old bicycle, Lyman noticed. It was stapled to a set of crinkled yellow pages. Personnel always used yellow for dependents. Lyman wondered if there were some logic to the color.
"Now," the chief superintendent continued. "There are certain gentlemen here at City of London and at Metropolitan who are of the opinion that Nigel Lyman's talents are on the wane, that after a promising beginning he has fiddled away his career." He scanned Lyman's face. "I am not one of them," he added gravely. "Of course, I won't pretend to understand your personal feelings concerning that ghastly business in the Falklands. Frankly, and I say this as a father as well as a former officer in Her Majesty's Navy, I don't believe it should have anything to do with the business at hand, with getting the job done. The Falklands war was nine years ago. Think of the boys who died last year and this year in Kuwait. Your son's death, tragic as it was, was but one part of the price we all pay for decency in this country."
"Yes, sir." Inspector Lyman looked beyond the window. He had never even known where the Falklands were before Peter had enlisted. He had only known the name from reading it on those little plastic tags clipped to the lamb his butcher sold in Golders Green. One of Jackie's cousins had once visited the South Atlantic islands. She had even sent some picture postcards back, but Lyman could not remember if they were still down in the cellar, in that box, or if his ex-wife had removed them with the rest of her belongings.
Jackie had gone back to Winchester after the divorce. The Falklands war was all but forgotten. Now everyone obsessed about Iraq. And all that remained of Peter was his little mongrel, George, who had found his roundabout way back to Lyman. Jackie hadn't wanted him. He shed too much. He ruined her clothes. He too was now superfluous.
"On the other hand," the chief superintendent added, chopping a hand through the air, "if the personal life of one of my men interferes with his work, then I am forced to take a position. And believe you me, when I take a position, I do so with vigor. Am I making myself clear?"
"Yes, sir," Lyman said.
"I took a risk with you, Lyman. I did your uncle a favor. A lot of people thought that I was being bloody silly, taking in a country constable, despite your success with that so-called College Killer. What am I meant to tell them now?"
"That they were right, perhaps."
"Don't be an ass, Lyman. Buck up. Pull yourself together."
Lyman realized with a start that the chief superintendent was a desperate man. He scowled behind his desk, meshing his narrow fingers like a pair of combs, then pulling them apart. If Cocksedge fell, it would be from greater heights, and this is what concerned him.
The City of London Police were traditionally an indigenous brood. Cocksedge had been somewhat daring in his hiring of Lyman, although it had really been the public and the press who had authorized the move. For Lyman had once enjoyed a fortnight in the sun, after the daring capture of a history teacher who had systematically dismembered several young boys at a prestigious public school in Hampshire. The "Case of the College Killer," as the Daily Mail had called it, had thrown the young inspector live into the hungry crowd. With his newfound notoriety and Jackie's passion for the city, he had moved to London, forever silencing the editorials and all the righteous politicians who had growled, "Why aren't there any Nigel Lymans solving crimes here in London?" He had come and been forgotten, his flirtation with the people but a summer romance after all. "I'm sorry, sir," Lyman answered finally. "Of course you can't say that."
The chief superintendent settled back in his chair, a faint smile pulling at his lips. "Now, about this Crosley matter," he added softly. "Why don't you tell me, in your own words, exactly what happened, so that we can settle this thing once and for all. Sit down. Take your time."
Lyman pulled a chair up beside the desk. "Thank you, sir," he said. He reached into his jacket and removed a pack of Players cigarettes. "May I?" The chief superintendent nodded. Lyman packed a cigarette with care.
"It wasn't just an ordinary case," he said, striking a match and lighting up. "That's why we were armed, according to the directive." A blue sigh of smoke rolled across the desk. "First there was that blond girl with the gardening trowel in her chest. And then all those others."
Cocksedge grunted an acknowledgment.
Lyman told him of the investigation. His voice was calm, devoid of emphasis.
"We thought it was Spendlove all along–Crosley especially. There was something about him neither of us felt quite right about."
He took a long drag off his cigarette, remembering. "We went to pick him up on Friday morning."
"Who's we? Be specific, man."
"Constable Crosley and I, Detective Sergeant Thompson, and Constable John Sykes. Thompson and Sykes stayed downstairs, watching the window, while Crosley and I went upstairs. At first everything went smoothly. Spendlove appeared as if he'd been expecting us. We showed him the warrant and he just fell apart, crying and pulling at his hair. He looked spent."
"Why wasn't he handcuffed?"
"We were about to when he bolted for the door. Crosley ran after him."
"What did you do?"
"First I shouted down to Sykes and told him what had happened. Then I followed Geoffrey–Constable Crosley, I mean. He had tackled Spendlove on the landing. It was then I saw the knife. Spendlove must have hidden it in his jacket. I was too far away to help, so I drew my gun and shouted out the warning."
Lyman paused. He took a final puff from his cigarette and snapped the burning head off in the ashtray on the desk.
The chief superintendent swiveled in his chair. "Go on," he said.
"Then they both got up. Spendlove was on the far side of the landing, with Crosley caught between us. That's when Spendlove stabbed him."
"Is that all? Wasn't Crosley armed? The suspect was clearly dangerous."
Lyman nodded. "Yes, he was armed," he answered dreamily. "I had my weapon trained on Spendlove. I remember that. I was just about to squeeze the trigger when Sergeant Thompson fired. People had already started looking out their doors. It was a bit of a riot after that, sir, I'm afraid."
"I see," Cocksedge said. "I understand." He nodded firmly. "You never had a clear shot, is that it? You couldn't pick him off while they were struggling."
Lyman nodded. "Yes, that was it. I couldn't really see. He was a good lad, Crosley. Too young to die like that."
"Of course he was," Cocksedge answered angrily. "But he knew what his job was. He knew the risks. Don't go blaming yourself now." The chief superintendent shook his head. "He was about your son's age, wasn't he? Yes, I thought so. It wasn't your fault, Lyman. It was just bad luck. The question is, of course, what now?"
Excerpted from Gospel Truths by J.G. Sandom Copyright © 2007 by J.G. Sandom. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
J.G. Sandom was educated in Italy, France and England. Winner of the Academy of American Poets Prize, Sandom is the founder and creative director of one of the nation's leading multimedia advertising agencies.
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A great read that apparently preceded Da Vinci Code by more than a decade. Full of twists and turns and beautifully written.
Oh my. I love this kind of story, but this book never got out of first gear. This had so many improbable scenes and the characters were flat, whiny, and utterly unlikeable. As much as I tried to like this book, I had to push myself to finish it.
Have you noticed the rising tide of rebellion in society, a lack of confidence in the authority of both secular and sacred leaders? Gospel Truths is a search for the Book of Thomas the Contender and the Gospel of Thomas, two works that could change the very fabric of society and spirituality. For the message supposedly lying within these two texts contains the key to fully finding one's identity, purpose and power within one's self and not based on external people or ideas. But as in every powerful truth, there are those who find this potential discovery a disaster in the making, a formidable force to destroy the powers that be. So what's the obvious conflict? Travel to England and France for an unforgettable experience! J. G. Sandom, like Dan Brown and other writers covering similar conflicts, offers each reader a thrilling adventure ride but also some fascinating knowledge about Masons, the Founding Fathers of America, antiques, architecture, cathedrals, and so much more. The protagonist who will guide us through this labyrinth is Nigel Lyman, a once notable British Detective now wallowing in grief and sorrow over a job gone bad and a terrible personal loss. But morose or otherwise, Lyman is called to investigate the mysterious death of an Italian financier tied to a formidable banking scandal unprecedented in the global banking world. Little does Nigel know that more battles and deaths will follow but on the journey Nigel begins what will bring him the purpose and healing he most needs and a conclusion the world needs even more! To stop him unknown enemies will galvanize their most fierce forces with their own very specific mission. Gospel Truths is a dynamic, exciting, intelligent read that will thrill every reader and for true seekers may even send you searching for the real "gospel truth." A notable novel that will gain fresh attention and interest of new readers! Move over, Dan Brown! Reviewed by Viviane Crystal on September 22, 2009