The Blood Gospel (Order of the Sanguines Series #1)by James Rollins, Rebecca Cantrell
In his first-ever collaboration, New York Times bestselling author James Rollins combines his skill for cutting-edge science and historical mystery with award-winning novelist Rebecca Cantrell's talent for haunting suspense and sensual atmosphere in a gothic tale about an ancient order and the hunt for a miraculous book known only as . . . The/em>… See more details below
In his first-ever collaboration, New York Times bestselling author James Rollins combines his skill for cutting-edge science and historical mystery with award-winning novelist Rebecca Cantrell's talent for haunting suspense and sensual atmosphere in a gothic tale about an ancient order and the hunt for a miraculous book known only as . . . The Blood Gospel
An earthquake in Masada, Israel, kills hundreds and reveals a tomb buried in the heart of the mountain. A trio of investigators—Sergeant Jordan Stone, a military forensic expert; Father Rhun Korza, a Vatican priest; and Dr. Erin Granger, a brilliant but disillusioned archaeologist—are sent to explore the macabre discovery, a subterranean temple holding the crucified body of a mummified girl.
But a brutal attack at the site sets the three on the run, thrusting them into a race to recover what was once preserved in the tomb's sarcophagus: a book rumored to have been written by Christ's own hand, a tome that is said to hold the secrets to His divinity. The enemy who hounds them is like no other, a force of ancient evil directed by a leader of impossible ambitions and incalculable cunning.
From crumbling tombs to splendorous churches, Erin and her two companions must confront a past that traces back thousands of years, to a time when ungodly beasts hunted the dark spaces of the world, to a moment in history when Christ made a miraculous offer, a pact of salvation for those who were damned for eternity.
Here is a novel that is explosive in its revelation of a secret history. Why do Catholic priests wear pectoral crosses? Why are they sworn to celibacy? Why do the monks hide their countenances under hoods? And why does Catholicism insist that the consecration of wine during Mass results in its transformation to Christ's own blood? The answers to all go back to a secret sect within the Vatican, one whispered as rumor but whose very existence was painted for all to see by Rembrandt himself, a shadowy order known simply as the Sanguines.
In the end, be warned: some books should never be found, never opened—until now.
A powerful earthquake near the ancient Jewish fortress of Masada kills hundreds, but its powerful tremors also reveal a secret that had remained hidden for nearly two thousand years: a subterranean temple that houses the crucified body of a young girl. To investigate this seemingly inexplicable discovery, the Israeli government dispatches a strangely mismatched trio of investigators: a brilliant female archaeologist; a secretive Vatican priest; and a methodical military forensic expert. Almost immediately, their project runs into resistance, but the first attack on them is only the beginning of a deadly dangerous fight to retrieve a long-suppressed message from Jesus. A Da Vinci Code-like novel with a radical new slant. Now in mass-market paperback and NOOK Book.
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By James Rollins
HarperCollins PublishersCopyright © 2013 James Rollins
All rights reserved.
October 26, 10:33 A.M., Israel Standard Time Caesarea, Israel
Dr. Erin Granger stroked her softest brush across the ancient skull. As the dust cleared, she studied it with the eyes of a scientist, noting the tiny seams of bone, the open fontanel. Her gaze evaluated the amount of callusing, judging the skull to be that of a newborn, and from the angle of the pelvic bone, a boy.
Only days old when he died.
As she continued to draw the child out of the dirt and stone, she looked on also as a woman, picturing the infant boy lying on his side, knees drawn up against his chest, tiny hands still curled into fists. Had his parents counted his heartbeats, kissed his impossibly tender skin, watched as that tiny heartbeat stopped?
As she had once done with her baby sister.
She closed her eyes, brush poised.
Opening her eyes, she combed back an errant strand of blond hair that had escaped its efficient ponytail before turning her attention back to the bones. She would find out what happened here all those hundreds of years ago. Because, as with her sister, this child's death had been deliberate. Only this boy had succumbed to violence, not negligence.
She continued to work, seeing the tender position of the limbs. Someone had labored to restore the body to its proper order before burying it, but the efforts could not disguise the cracked and missing bones, hinting at a past atrocity. Even two thousand years could not erase the crime.
She put down the wooden brush and took yet another photo. Time had colored the bones the same bleached sepia as the unforgiving ground, but her careful excavation had revealed their shape. Still, it would take hours to work the rest of the bones free.
She shifted from one aching knee to the other. At thirty-two, she was hardly old, but right now she felt that way. She had been in the trench for barely an hour, and already her knees complained. As a child, she had knelt in prayer for much longer, poised on the hard dirt floor of the compound's church. Back then, she could kneel for half a day without complaint, if her father demanded - but after so many years trying to forget her past, perhaps she misremembered it. Wincing, she stood and stretched, lifting her head clear of the waist- high trench. A cooling sea breeze caressed her hot face, chasing away her memories. To the left, wind ruffled the flaps of the camp's tents and scattered sand across the excavation site.
Flying grit blinded her until she could blink it away. Sand invaded everything here. Each day her hair changed from blond to the grayish red of the Israeli desert. Her socks ground inside her Converse sneakers like sandpaper, her fingernails filled up with grit, even her mouth tasted of sand.
Still, when she looked across the plastic yellow tape that cordoned off her archaeological dig, she allowed a ghost of a smile to shine, happy to have her sneakers planted in ancient history. Her excavation occupied the center of an ancient hippodrome, a chariot course. It faced the ageless Mediterranean Sea. The water shone indigo, beaten by the sun into a surreal, metallic hue. Behind her, a long stretch of ancient stone seats, sectioned into tiers, stood as a two thousand year old testament to a long dead king, the architect of the city of Caesarea: the infamous King Herod, that monstrous slayer of innocents.
A horse's whinny floated across the track, echoing not from the past, but from a makeshift stable that had been thrown together on the far end of the hippodrome. A local group was preparing an invitational race. Soon this hippodrome would be resurrected, coming to life once again, if only for a few days.
She could hardly wait.
But she and her students had a lot of work to finish before then. With her hands on her hips, she stared down at the skull of the murdered baby. Perhaps later today she could jacket the tiny skeleton with plaster and begin the laborious process of excavating it from the ground. She longed to get it back to a lab, where it could be analyzed. The bones had more to tell her than she would ever discover in the field.
She dropped to her knees next to the infant. Something bothered her about the femur. It had unusual scallop shaped dents along its length. As she bent close to see, a chill chased back the heat.
Were those teeth marks?
"Professor?" Nate Highsmith's Texas twang broke the air and her concentration.
She jumped, cracking her elbow against the wooden slats bracing the walls from the relentless sand.
"Sorry." Her graduate student ducked his head.
She had given strict instructions that she was not to be disturbed this morning, and here he was bothering her already. To keep from snapping at him, she picked up her battered canteen and took a long sip of tepid water. It tasted like stainless steel.
"No harm done," she said stiffly.
She shielded her eyes with her free hand and squinted up at him. Standing on the edge of the trench, he was silhouetted against the scathing sun. He wore a straw Stetson pulled low, a pair of battered jeans, and a faded plaid shirt with the sleeves rolled up to expose well muscled arms. She suspected that he had rolled them up just to impress her. It wouldn't work, of course. For the past several years, fully focused on her work, she acknowledged that the only guys she found fascinating had been dead for several centuries.
She glanced meaningfully over to an unremarkable patch of sand and rock. The team's ground penetrating radar unit sat abandoned, looking more like a sandblasted lawn mower than a high tech tool for peering under dirt and rock.
"Why aren't you over there mapping that quadrant?"
"I was, Doc." His drawl got thicker, as it always did when he got excited. He hiked an eyebrow, too.
He's found something.
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you." Nate bounced on the balls of his feet, ready to dash off and show her.
She smiled, because he was right. Whatever it was, she wouldn't believe it until she saw it herself. That was the mantra she hammered into her students: It's not real until you can dig it out of the ground and hold it in your hands.
To protect her work site and out of respect for the child's bones, she gently pulled a tarp over the skeleton. Once she was done, Nate reached down and helped her out of the deep trench. As expected, his hand lingered on hers a second too long.
Trying not to scowl, she retrieved her hand and dusted off the knees of her jeans. Nate took a step back, glancing away, perhaps knowing he had overstepped a line. She didn't scold him. What would be the use? She wasn't oblivious to the advances of men, but she rarely encouraged them, and never out in the field. Here she wore dirt like other women wore makeup and avoided romantic involvement. Though of average height, she'd been told that she carried herself as if she were a foot taller. She had to in this profession, especially as a young woman.
Back home, she'd had her share of relationships, but none of them seemed to stick. In the end, most men found her intimidating - which was off putting to many, but oddly attractive to others.
Still, he was a good field man with great potential as a geophysicist. He would grow out of his interest in her, and things would uncomplicate themselves on their own.
"Show me." She turned toward the khaki colored equipment tent. If nothing else, it would be good to get out of the baking sun. "Amy's got the information up on the laptop." He headed across the site. "It's a jackpot, Professor. We hit a bona fide bone jackpot." She suppressed a grin at his enthusiasm and hurried to keep pace with his long legged stride. She admired his passion, but, like life, archeology didn't hand out jackpots after a single morning's work. Sometimes not even after decades.
She ducked past the tent flap and held it open for Nate, who took off his hat as he stepped inside. Out of the sun's glare, the tent's interior felt several degrees cooler than the site outside.
A humming electric generator serviced a laptop and a dilapidated metal fan. The fan blew straight at Amy, a twenty-three year old grad student from Columbia. The dark- haired young woman spent more time inside the tent than out. Drops of water had condensed on a can of Diet Coke on her desk. Slightly overweight and out of shape, Amy hadn't had the years under the harsh sun to harden her to the rigors of archaeological fieldwork, but she still had a keen technological nose. Amy typed on the keyboard with one hand and waved Erin over with the other.
"Professor Granger, you're not going to believe this."
"That's what I keep hearing."
Her third student was also in the tent. Apparently everyone had decided to stop working to study Nate's findings. Heinrich hovered over Amy's shoulder. A stolid twenty-four year old student from the Freie Universität in Berlin, he was normally hard to distract. For him to have stepped away from his own work meant that the find was big.
Amy's brown eyes did not leave the screen. "The software is still working at enhancing the image, but I thought you'd want to see this right away."
Erin unsnapped the rag clipped to her belt and wiped grit and sweat off her face. "Amy, before I forget, that child's skeleton I've been excavating ... I saw some unusual marks that I'd like you to photograph."
Amy nodded, but Erin suspected she hadn't heard a word she'd said.
Nate fidgeted with his Stetson.
What had they found?
Erin walked over and stood next to Heinrich. Amy leaned back in her metal folding chair so that Erin had a clear view of the screen. The laptop displayed time sliced images of the ground Nate had scanned that morning. Each showed a different layer of quadrant eight, sorted by depth. The pictures resembled square gray mud puddles marred by black lines that formed parabolas, like ripples in the puddle. The black lines represented solid material. Erin's heart pounded in her throat. She leaned closer in disbelief. This mud puddle had far too many waves. In ten years of field work she'd never seen anything like it. No one had.
This can't be right.
She traced a curve on the smooth screen, ignoring the way Amy tightened her lips. Amy hated it when someone smudged her laptop screen, but Erin had to prove that it was real - to touch it herself. She spoke through the strain, through the hope. "Nate, how big an area did you scan?"
No hesitation. "Ten square meters."
She glanced sidelong at his serious face. "Only ten meters? You're sure?"
"You trained me on the GPR, remember?" He cocked his head to the side. "Painstakingly."
Erin kept going. "And you added gain to these results?"
"Yes, Professor," he sighed. "It's fully gained."
She sensed that she'd bruised his ego by questioning his skills, but she had to be certain. She trusted equipment, but not always the people running it.
"I did everything." Nate leaned forward. "And, before you ask, the signature is exactly the same as the skeleton you were just excavating."
Exactly the same? That made this stratum two thousand years old. She looked back at the tantalizing images. If the data were correct, and she would have to check again, but if they were, each parabola marked a human skull.
"I did a rough count." Nate interrupted her thoughts. "More than five hundred. None larger than four inches in diameter."
Four inches ...
Not just skulls - skulls of babies.
Hundreds of babies.
She silently recited the relevant Bible passage: Matthew 2:16.
Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.
The Massacre of the Innocents. Allegedly, Herod ordered it done to be certain, absolutely certain, that he had killed the child whom he feared would one day supplant him as the King of the Jews. But he had failed anyway. That baby had escaped to Egypt and grown into the man known as Jesus Christ.
Excerpted from Blood Gospel by James Rollins. Copyright © 2013 by James Rollins. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Must Read for 2013 – An instant favorite! James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell have created an exceptional tale that delivers an explosive combination of history, theology, and mystery mixed with a delightful dose of passion and the paranormal in the recently released, The Blood Gospel. This novel introduces a team of warrior, academic, and priest – an unlikely triad who forge a bond that ultimately could save the world. A modern day warrior who has loved and lost and might love again, a brilliant archeologist with deep emotional scars from a troubled religious upbringing, and a priest who is unlike any priest our world has ever known - they are bound together perchance by prophecy to locate the original gospel penned by Christ’s own hand. Revealing any details from this thriller would be a sin. It is a must read and has earned a prominent spot on my bookshelf of all time favorites. The collaboration of Rollins and Cantrell is a success and I am eagerly anticipating the next installment of the The Order of the Sanguines series. 5 Stars!
Someone else wrote this in their review -- "While the writing is excellent, the history/fantasy is combined well I didn't really enjoy the book. After being a die-hard Rollins fan this is really a departure. I hope this is not a reflection of where his writing in going for the future. Sigma Rules!" I could not agree more. This is a very different style for Rollins and I am very disappointed. I agree it was well written, but I really hope he is not going in this direction. I am not big on this vampire/werewolves story line. Plus, I can definitely tell a woman had a hand in this book. Way too much touchy, feel-y harlequin romance junk. UGH And I am a woman. I have always been an action/adventure/espionage lover. And I always will be. Rollins, please.....we need more Sigma Force novels!! No more of this Cantrell crap.
While the writing is excellent, the history/fantasy is combined well I didn't really enjoy the book. After being a die-hard Rollins fan this is really a departure. I hope this is not a reflection of where his writing in going for the future. Sigma Rules!
When I saw that there was a new James Rollins book out, I couldn't wait to read it. Had I known one of the main characters was a vampire, I would never have wasted $12 on it. I have enjoyed everything he has written before, but this book was awful. The premise could have made an enjoyable read, but the finished project seems to be the authors' attempt to cash in on the vampire craze. I was also mystified by the prose, considering Dr. Rollins' previous works have never been forced or "flowery". I'm guessing Ms. Cantrell usually writes books in the "bodice-ripper" genre. I do hope Dr. Rollins hasn't been keeping that "talent" hidden! I also hope he gives up on this particular partnership and direction so he can get back to writing his Sigma Force series and other mystery/susense novels - alone! (Or at least with a more talented partner!) I couldn't post this without rating at least one star, but that is more than this particular book deserves.
I wasn't sure I'd enjoy this book, as I'm finding the whole vampire et al thing to be tiresome, but I was pleasantly surprised when reading this novel. Some have said it's a slap in the face to Chrisrianity; I disagree. Nothing can slap down true faith, and one must remember, this is a work of FICTION. That said, I found the book interesting, suspenseful, and I finished it in a day and a half. Dedinitely worth reading!
Not my usual genre so wasn't sure I'd like it, but well written, fast paced, intriguing story & characters. Will definitely read the sequel - hope it doesn't disappoint.
Started off fast and never slowed down. Can't wait for the next one!
This was pure junk: Vampires, wearwolves, priests who are vampires, and historical people who are corrupted into things that go bump in the night -- even the Bible is rewritten to fit the storyline. The best thing that could happen is to drive a stake through the heart of this thing and bury in consecrated ground so that it never sees the light of day ever again.
Never been a fan of vampire novels but still decided to give this one a try and it turned out to be better than I expected. I still prefer the Sigma series though. I just hope he finishes this in 2 novels and get back to writing about Gray, Seichan, painter, etc.
I have read all of James Rollins books and this was the worst one. You can tell he has stopped writing with his old adventurous swagger and has settled on a profile of audience he is shooting for. Mainly women between 18 and 40. So sad he use to be a great story teller.
Enjoyed this book from start to finish. One of those books you want to keep plowing through to see what happens but at the same time want to slow down and enjoy the ride. My love affair with Rhun Korza, Erin Granger, and Jordan Stone has begun. I can only hope that James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell have started to write book #2.
SO much female feelings in this book, makes me wonder how much involvement Rollins really had in it's creation. Vampires ... really in a Rollins novel? Not as good a story as in previous novels.
Great read! Lots of surprising twists and turns! Hope there is a sequel!!
Really great book with intriguing story line. Kept me entertained all the way.
Excelent! More twists & turns than a roller coaster. Cannot wait for the next in the series.
Sorry as much as I admire James Rollins writings this one is just too far fetched. As always the writing is excellent, it is the characters that I cannot handle. I will not be reading the rest of the series but will read the other James Rollins books.
I'm a big Rollins fan and this book did not disappoint. I would definitely reccomend this one.
I always enjoy a James Rollins book. I read to the wee hours of the morning finding out what was going to happen next. Can't wait until the next book. This is a keeper.
Werewolves, bears, bats, and vampires how could you. I'm all for stoping in the mayhem and smelling someones shampoo, I've even done it myself. I'll not be reading another of her books with his mame on it.
The story line for this one is one of Rollins' best. Having said that, I found that the romance part of this book for the first 250 pages grew very tiresome. Continue on, though, and it's fast paced and worth the endurance at the end! Would definitely recommend for Rollins fans.
This thriller will bring you along for the ride, but it is so canned and formulaic that you can't help looking over your shoulder the whole way wondering if the author is having a good laugh at how gullible american readers are. Throw in a little DaVinci code, a little Twilight, mix it up and you've got a book.... I read it straight through but then felt kind of duped.
Highly entertaining - fast read, will definitely follow the next in the series
I read this book at thevlibrary and really enjoyed ir. I can't wait for a sequel!
What a disappointment. Have been a huge Rollins fan for years. I cannot believe the author of the Sigma Force series wrote this pop culture vampire dreck. Really, the fundamentals of christianity and the Russian revolution are based on vampires? I will not be buying or reading any other books in this series, if there are any more. I look forward to seeing Mr. Rollins OTHER endeavors, however.
Normally Rollins never disappoints. He did disappoint with this utterly idiotic storyline and poorly developed characters. It was a waste of my precious personal reading time andI regret spending time and money on this "novel".