The Sacred Bones [NOOK Book]


At the crossroads of Christian, Islamic, and Jewish faiths, an ancient artifact is stolen from a long-hidden vault located directly beneath Jerusalem's Temple Mount . . .

So begins The Sacred Bones by Michael Byrnes, a page-turning novel from a new voice on the thriller scene. With the violent theft leaving thirteen Israeli soldiers and policemen dead, and the Palestinians up in arms over the desecration of sacred grounds, the tension between the two groups is dangerously high. ...

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The Sacred Bones

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At the crossroads of Christian, Islamic, and Jewish faiths, an ancient artifact is stolen from a long-hidden vault located directly beneath Jerusalem's Temple Mount . . .

So begins The Sacred Bones by Michael Byrnes, a page-turning novel from a new voice on the thriller scene. With the violent theft leaving thirteen Israeli soldiers and policemen dead, and the Palestinians up in arms over the desecration of sacred grounds, the tension between the two groups is dangerously high. Jerusalem is a stick of dynamite and the fuse has been lit. . . .

Across the Mediterranean in Italy, American forensic scientist Charlotte Hennesey has been hired by the Vatican to examine the contents of a newly discovered archeological treasure: a two-thousand-year-old ossuary containing the bones of an unidentified, crucified man—the first complete skeleton of a crucifixion victim ever found. Together with Italian anthropologist Giovanni Bersei, Charlotte makes startling forensic and genetic discoveries that lead her to wonder—could these be the bones of Jesus Christ?

With the situation in Jerusalem veering out of control and the malevolent eye of Vatican security expert Salvatore Conte watching her every step, Charlotte puts two and two together. She knows that if the mortal remains of Christ are indeed in the burial box, the implications—for history and science, for religion and the Church—are frighteningly vast. And even more immediate is the question of whether the Vatican will allow the information—and Charlotte—to see the light of day.

Fast-paced and intelligent, blending historical fact with persuasive fiction, The Sacred Bones reads like a CSI episode penned by The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown. From a conspiracy stretching back to the days of the Templar Knights to the shifting alliances of contemporary Middle Eastern politics, The Sacred Bones is an addictively compelling thriller that calls into question many of modern religion's deepest-held beliefs about Judaism, Jesus Christ and early Christianity, and Islam . . . with stunning results.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

In Byrnes's improbable debut thriller, the styles of Dan Brown and Michael Crichton collide. An ancient artifact hidden under the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is stolen in a violent robbery, and many dead bodies are left in its wake. Meanwhile, a forensic scientist receives an invitation to study the bones from what appears to be a 2000-year-old tomb. As the research progresses, the evidence leads to a shocking hypothesis: Could the bones be the remains of Jesus Christ? As in a Crichton novel, the characters exist solely to spout history and theories. Backstories and discussion are clunky at times, halting the narrative pace; an afterword seems necessary, but Byrnes's novel lacks one. Fans of historical thrillers with religious overtones will eat this up; however, if it had been written with stronger characterization and better blending of fact and fiction, it could have become a classic. Recommended for larger fiction collections.
—Jeff Ayers Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

Kirkus Reviews
Brigands in the employ of the Vatican swipe a fancy stone box from a secret chamber under the holiest and most fought-over spot in Jerusalem. Guess whose 2,000-year-old bones are in the box?There is, apparently, no end to the demand for tales of treachery and centuries-long deceit on the part of the Catholic Church, where there is, it seems, nothing going on these days but treachery and, yes, deceit. Debut novelist Byrnes's entry pits Vatican heavies against relatively noble Muslims and the usual unscrupulous but dazzlingly effective Jews, when mercenaries hired by the Pope's Secretary of State, Cardinal Santelli, use a hijacked Israeli army helicopter to spirit away the most elaborate of nine ossuaries hidden centuries ago by the Knights Templar just prior to their elimination by the French King and his evil papal ally. Cardinal Santelli has appointed Father Donovan, the Vatican librarian, to see whose bones are in the box, and Donovan has in turn employed Charlotte Hennessy, a beautiful American scientist secretly dying of bone cancer, and Giovanni Bersei, an Italian married to Italy's only Bad Cook, to do the scientific testing. As the scientists run their tests in Rome, back in the Holy Land the Muslims and Jews point fingers, knives and guns at each other over the loss of the box, and stumble over each other trying to find who took it. Graham Barton, a scholar hired by the Israelis to identify the remaining evidence in the secret chamber, is the only religiously neutral player. He's quick to identify the remains as belonging to the family of Joseph of Arimathea, the wealthy Jew who offered his own tomb as a burial site for Jesus after the crucifixion. In Vatican City, the scientistsuse powerful software to reconstruct the body that went with the bones. Gee! He's extremely good-looking. And buff. Holy cow. Unimpressive, gee-whiz fare.
Publishing News (UK)
“A terrific thriller melding biblical puzzles with modern-day archaeology and the immense knowledge...gleaned by forensic science. Action-driven...”
Bookseller (UK)
“A breathless race through real historical fact laced generously with artistic license. …An immensely enjoyable read.”
Hampstead & Highgate Express (UK)
“ …A pacy read with plenty of surprises…”
Simcha Jacobovici
“Exciting, intelligent and incredibly true to life.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061847080
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/13/2009
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 123,808
  • File size: 775 KB

Meet the Author

Michael Byrnes attended Montclair State University in Montclair, New Jersey, and earned his graduate degree in business administration at Rutgers. Byrnes lives in Florida with his wife, Caroline, and daughters, Vivian and Camille.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Present Day

Salvatore Conte never questioned his clients' motives. His many missions had taught him how to remain calm and keep focused. But tonight was different. Tonight he felt uneasy.

The eight men moved through the ancient streets. Entirely clothed in black, each was armed with lightweight Heckler & Koch XM8 carbines equipped with 100-round magazines and grenade launchers. Padding along the cobblestone in soft boots, every man scanned his surroundings with infrared night-vision goggles. History loomed all around them.

With an abrupt hand signal to hold position, Conte paced ahead.

He knew that his team was just as apprehensive. Though Jerusalem's name meant "City of Peace," this place defined turmoil. Each silent road was bringing them closer to its divided heart.

The men had traveled separately from a handful of European countries, convening two days earlier at an apartment leased in a quiet part of the Jewish Quarter overlooking Battei Makhase Square, their accommodation booked under one of Conte's numerous aliases, "Daniel Marrone."

On arrival Conte had played tourist to familiarize himself with the web of alleyways and winding streets surrounding the thirty-five-acre rectangular monument in the center of the fortified Old City—a massive complex of bulwarks and retaining walls standing thirty-two meters high that resembled a colossal monolith laid flat upon Mount Moriah's steep ridge. Easily the world's most contested parcel of real estate, the Islamic Haram esh-Sharif, or "Noble Sanctuary," was more familiar by another name—Temple Mount.

As the cover of buildings gave way to thetowering western wall, he motioned two men forward. The wall-mounted floodlights cast long shadows. Conte's men would blend easily into the dark pockets, but then so could the Israeli Defense Force soldiers.

The endless dispute between Jews and Palestinians had made this the most heavily guarded city in the world. However, Conte knew that the IDF was rife with conscripts—teenage boys whose sole purpose was to fulfill three-year service requirements and no match for his hardened team.

He peered ahead, his night-vision goggles transforming the shadows to eerie green. The area was clear except for two soldiers loitering fifty meters away. They were armed with M-16s, donning standard-issue olive green fatigues, bulletproof vests, and black berets. Both men were smoking Time Lite cigarettes, Israel's most popular—and, to Conte, most offensive—brand.

Glancing over to their intended entry point at Moors' Gate, an elevated gateway on the platform's western wall, Conte quickly surmised there was no way to gain access to the Temple Mount without being detected.

Shifting his fingers along the barrel, he flicked the XM8 to single-shot mode and mounted the rifle on his left shoulder. He targeted the first green ghost with the red laser, aiming for the head, using the glowing butt of the dangling cigarette as a guide. Though the XM8's titanium rounds were capable of piercing the soldier's Kevlar vest, Conte found no sport—let alone certainty—in body shots.

One shot. One kill.

His index finger gently squeezed.

There was a muffled retort, slight recoil, and he saw the target buckle at the knees.

The scope shifted to the remaining man.

Before the second IDF soldier had begun to comprehend what was happening, Conte had fired again, the round penetrating the man's face and cartwheeling through the brain.

He watched him collapse and paused. Silence.

It never ceased to amaze him just how token the expression "defense" really was—offering little more than a word to make people feel secure. And though his native country had a laughable military competence, in his own way, he felt he had become its equalizer.

Another abrupt hand signal ushered his men onto the sloping walkway approaching Moors' Gate. To his left, he glimpsed the Western Wall Plaza nestled along the embankment's base. Yesterday he had marveled at the Orthodox Jews—men separated from women by a curtained partition—who gathered here to mourn the ancient temple they believed had once graced this holy place. On his right lay a small valley littered with excavated foundations—Jerusalem's oldest ruins.

A substantial iron gate sealed with a deadbolt denied access to the platform. In less than fifteen seconds the lock had been picked and his team funneled through the tunneled entrance, fanning out across the broad esplanade beyond.

Slipping past the stout El-Aqsa Mosque abutting Temple Mount's southern wall, Conte turned his gaze to the esplanade's center where just over tall cypress trees, a second and much grander mosque stood on an elevated platform, its gilded cupola illuminated like a halo against the night sky. The Dome of the Rock—embodiment of Islam's claim over the Holy Land.

Conte led the team to the esplanade's southeast corner where a wide opening accommodated a modern staircase, cascading downward. He splayed the fingers of his gloved right hand and four men disappeared below the surface. Then he signaled the remaining two men to hunker down in the nearby tree shadows to secure a perimeter.

The air in the passage became moist the further the men descended, then abruptly cold, giving off a mossy aroma. Once they had assembled at the base of the steps, rifle-mounted halogen lights were switched on. Crisp, luminous beams bisected the darkness to reveal a cavernous, vaulted space with arched stanchions laid out on neat avenues.

Conte remembered reading that twelfth-century Crusaders had used this subterranean room as a horse stable. The Muslims, its latest occupants, had recently converted it into a mosque, but the Islamic decor did little to mask its uncanny resemblance to a subway station.

Running his light along the room's eastern wall, he was pleased to spot the two brown canvas bags his local contact had promised. "Gretner," he addressed the thirty-five-year-old explosives expert from Vienna. "Those are for you."

The Austrian retrieved them.

Slinging his carbine over his shoulder, Conte took a folded paper from his pocket and switched on a penlight. The map showed the exact location of what they'd been charged to procure—he didn't favor references to "stealing"—the term demeaned his professionalism. He aimed the penlight along the wall.

The Sacred Bones
A Novel
. Copyright © by Michael Byrnes. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 35 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 35 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 20, 2010

    The Sacred Bones

    Michael Byrnes reveals to us the ancient mysteries of the Holy Land. I feel this is a must-read for all men and women who are seeking a deeper understanding of themselves and their power as children of God!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2007

    Wonderful, well crafted, and easy read.

    If you enjoy historical novels in the Dan Brown vein, then I believe you'll enjoy Sacred Bones. I couldn't put it down, it's smooth pace and enjoyable characters kept me reading long into the night.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2013

    Highly Recommended

    Must read

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  • Posted May 4, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    A must read for lovers of catholic historical fiction!

    This is a great story with a fictional story line but based on lots of historical facts. Read lots of this genre and this is certainly near the top of the list. I couldn't put it down for long and found myself planning my escapes from life to read a couple more chapters!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2012


    This is a great read. Picked it up an it reminded me of dan brown. It has a sequel too.

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  • Posted January 15, 2012

    almost there

    i love the plot and the writing style of the author , however i hate how the ending leaves u with more questions than answers . i would definitely recommend it as a good read.

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  • Posted October 4, 2010

    I read this first, outstanding !

    One of the best books in a long time !

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  • Posted December 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Just like Dan Brown books

    Byrnes has the same style of writing that Dan Brown does. If you enjoyed Brown's work you will enjoy this book also

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 18, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Loved it!

    This book has something for everyone: A religous back drop, love, murder, science, you name it. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

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  • Posted June 6, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Conspiracy and intrigue mixed with technology and religion!

    On his debut novel, The Sacred Bones, author Michael Byrnes brings us a fascinating mix of myths, legends, and themes of today in a controversial story full of intrigue, conspiracy, murder, modern technology and religion- the perfect combination for a breath taking story.

    The book starts with the story of the Knights of the Temple and their duties regarding the Church and its secrets. The story then moves forward and the suspense starts in Jerusalem's present time. A relic is stolen from beneath The Temple Mount leaving behind death, destruction, and confusion. Both Muslims and Jews are blaming each other for this incident and both start their own investigation. The Israelites authorities bring in antiques expert, Graham Barton, to help with the identification of the stolen relic and its commercial value, whereas the Palestinians bring in political mediador, Razak bin Ahmed bin al-Tahini, to conduct the investigation and to reduce tension among the radical Islamic groups ready to take action for the desecration of their El-Aqsa Mosque.

    Meanwhile, in Vatican city, American geneticist Charlotte Hennesey, Italian anthropologist Giovanni Bersie, and Father Patrick Donovan work together to analyze and identify the human remains inside an ancient Jewish burial box - an ossuary.

    This book is a roller coaster of emotions as all these characters find themselves inside a spider web of conspiracy, murder, potential war, cover up of evidence, and zealous actions to protect an ancient secret. Will the truth set them free? Or will the truth cause their death?

    I highly recommend this book to readers looking for a fiction book tastefully written, while merging difficult topics with the eloquence of an experienced storyteller. I can see this book finding its way to the big screen and becoming a major motion picture.

    Bravo Mr. Byrnes!

    Reviewed by the author of The Window To My Soul; My Walk With Jesus

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  • Posted February 24, 2009

    Great first novel! A fun read, lots of irony in ending.

    Really enjoyed this first novel by Michael Byrnes.

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  • Posted February 23, 2009

    Sacred Bones Rattling In Well Worn Territory

    An ossuary of a man crucified discovered beneath Jerusalem and the intrigue and violence that surrounds it has the makings of a fair thriller.

    In Sacred Bones however, I found author Michael Byrnes a bit overstretched at times and tedious in his attempts in accuracy at others.

    This is the type of book would be fun if you know nothing about Jerusalem, archaeology, religious history/politics and military tactics. But if you are noted or quasi-expert in any of those fields, you will sadly find yourself rolling your eyes and groaning.Generally not wholesale mistakes, but there are a few, but enough pin pricks that the story slowly sinks.

    Really, the strongest attributes of Sacred Bones is that Byrnes, unlike author Dan Brown, doesn't seem to take himself or the subject too seriously. It is what it is. A story on the fringe of plausibility.

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  • Posted February 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Could it be?

    Look at the cover and you know what's coming. The book has great forensic details and wonderful descriptions of Jerusalem and Rome but the characters are stilted, even the bad guy is much too fake and the crime he commits to get the bones is so not believable.<BR/><BR/> Too many print and visual artists out there looking to create a tsunami in Christianity. Good luck.

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  • Posted February 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer


    This book is a tough slog. The characters and plot are so predictable. The story jumps from place to place with no smooth transitions.<BR/><BR/> That being said, I have to finish it to see if I was right.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2007

    The Sacred Bones

    When a book cover trumpets in tabloid-y excess: Spies, muder, conspiracy - One unholy trinity, you know this is perfect fodder for airplanes or beaches. The tale opens with a group of mercenaries breaking into the sacred Temple Mount in Jerusalem and stealing a historical relic: an ossuary containing a 2,000-year-old skeleton bearing the marks of crucifixion. When the scene switches to the Vatican and the narrative introduces American geneticist Charlotte Hennesey, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that the bones belong to Jesus Christ. Still, the narrative moves along snappily enough as it switches from shadowy politicking among Arab, Jewish and Catholic factions to fast-paced action sequences. Another bonus is that first-time writer Byrnes can construct a better sentence than Dan Brown of i The Da Vinci Code /i fame. His manages to conjure up plausible political motives for his characters, giving the book a sense of the tensions rife in contemporary Israel. And he keeps the technobabble and religious conspiracy theories to a minimum, which is an advantage. While this is hardly likely to start a fad a la i The Da Vinci Code /i , it does serve its purpose as solid weekend entertainment.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2007

    You Won't Be Able to Put it Down!

    Through his amazing research and love for history, Byrnes has created an action packed novel you won't be able to put down. This was an astounding read filled with 'what if' possibilities!

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    Posted January 16, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2009

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 35 Customer Reviews

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