A perfectly balanced, fast-paced, and compelling thriller.... Already an international bestseller, it's also certain to draw the American wing of the still-unsatiated Da Vinci Code crowd."--
The Moses Expedition: A Novelby Juan Gómez-Jurado
“Juan Gómez-Jurado has created a true masterpiece. The Moses Expedition is a brilliant thriller—sharp, suspenseful, and engrossing” (Brad Thor, author of Code of Conduct).After fifty years in hiding, the Nazi war criminal known as the Butcher of Spiegelgrund has finally been tracked down by Father Anthony Fowler, a CIA operative/i>/i>… See more details below
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“Juan Gómez-Jurado has created a true masterpiece. The Moses Expedition is a brilliant thriller—sharp, suspenseful, and engrossing” (Brad Thor, author of Code of Conduct).After fifty years in hiding, the Nazi war criminal known as the Butcher of Spiegelgrund has finally been tracked down by Father Anthony Fowler, a CIA operative and a member of the Vatican’s secret service. He wants something from the Butcher—a candle covered in filigree gold that was stolen from a Jewish family many years before. But it isn’t the gold Fowler is after. As Fowler holds a flame to the wax, the missing fragment of an ancient map that uncovers the location of the Ten Commandments given to Moses is revealed. Soon Fowler is involved in an expedition to Jordan set up by a reclusive billionaire. But there is a traitor in the group who has ties to terrorist organizations back in the United States, and who is patiently awaiting the moment to strike. From wartime Vienna to terrorist cells in New York and a lost valley in Jordan, The Moses Expedition is a thrilling read about a quest for power and the secrets of an ancient world.
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RESIDENCE OF BALTHASAR HANDWURZ
Thursday, December 15, 2005. 11:42 a.m.
The priest wiped his feet carefully on the welcome mat before knocking on the door. After tracking the man for the past four months, he had finally discovered his hiding place two weeks ago. He was now sure of Handwurz’s true identity. The moment had come to confront him.
He waited patiently for a few minutes. It was almost noon and Graus would be having his customary midday nap on the sofa. There was hardly anyone in the narrow street at that hour. His neighbors on Steinfeldstraße were at work, unaware that at Number 6, in a small house with blue curtains at the windows, a genocidal monster was peacefully dozing in front of his TV set.
Finally the sound of a key in the lock warned the priest that the door was about to open. The head of an elderly man with the venerable air of someone in an advertisement for medical insurance appeared from behind the door.
“Good morning, Herr Doktor.”
The old man looked the person who was addressing him up and down. The latter was tall, thin, and bald, about fifty years of age, with a priest’s collar visible under his black coat. He stood on the doorstep with the rigid posture of a military guard, his green eyes observing the old man intently.
“I think you’re mistaken, Father. I used to be a plumber, but now I’m retired. I’ve already contributed to the parish fund, so if you’ll excuse me . . .”
“You aren’t by any chance Dr. Heinrich Graus, the famous German neurosurgeon?”
The old man held his breath for a second. Aside from that, he did nothing that might give him away. However, that small detail was enough for the priest: proof positive.
“My name is Handwurz, Father.”
“That’s not true and we both know it. Now, if you’ll let me in, I’ll show you what I’ve brought with me.” The priest raised his left hand, in which he held a black briefcase.
The door swung open in response and the old man limped quickly toward the kitchen, the ancient floorboards protesting with each step. The priest followed but paid little attention to the surroundings. He had peered in through the windows on three separate occasions and already knew the location of each item of cheap furniture. He preferred keeping his eyes fixed on the old Nazi’s back. Even though the doctor walked with some difficulty, the priest had seen him lifting sacks of coal from the shed with an ease that a man decades younger might have envied. Heinrich Graus was still a dangerous man.
The small kitchen was dark and smelled rancid. It had a gas stove, a counter on which sat a dried-up onion, a round table, and two unmatched chairs. Graus gestured for the priest to sit down. The old man then rummaged through a cupboard, took out two glasses, filled them with water, and set them on the table before taking a seat himself. The glasses remained untouched as the two men sat there, impassive, regarding each other for over a minute.
The old man was dressed in a red flannel bathrobe, cotton shirt, and worn trousers. He had started going bald twenty years earlier, and the little hair he had left was completely white. His large round glasses had gone out of style before the fall of Communism. The relaxed expression around his mouth lent him a good-natured air.
None of this fooled the priest.
Dust particles floated in the shaft of light created by the weak rays of the December sun. One of them landed on the priest’s sleeve. He flicked it away without taking his gaze from the old man.
The smooth certainty of the gesture did not go unnoticed by the Nazi, but he’d had time to recover his composure.
“Aren’t you going to have some water, Father?”
“I’m not thirsty, Dr. Graus.”
“So you’re going to insist on calling me by that name. My name is Handwurz. Balthasar Handwurz.”
The priest paid no heed.
“I have to admit, you’re pretty sharp. When you got your passport to leave for Argentina, no one imagined that you’d return to Vienna a few months later. Naturally it was the last place I looked for you. Only forty-five miles from Spiegelgrund Hospital. The Nazi hunter Wiesenthal searched for years in Argentina, unaware that you were a short ride away from his office. Ironic, don’t you think?”
“I think it’s ridiculous. You’re American, aren’t you? You speak German well, but your accent gives you away.”
The priest lifted his briefcase onto the table and removed from it a worn folder. The first document he held up was a photo of a younger Graus, taken at the hospital at Spiegelgrund during the war. The second was a variation of the same photo, but with the doctor’s features aged, thanks to a software program.
“Isn’t technology great, Herr Doktor?”
“That doesn’t prove a thing. Anyone could have done that. I watch television too,” he said, but his voice betrayed something else.
“You’re right. It doesn’t prove anything, but this does.”
The priest took out a yellowing sheet to which someone had stapled a black-and-white photo, on top of which was written in sepia letters: TESTIMONIANZA FORNITA, next to the stamp of the Vatican.
“‘Balthasar Handwurz. Blond hair, brown eyes, strong features. Identifying marks: a tattoo on his left arm with the number 256441, put there by the Nazis during his stay at the concentration camp at Mauthausen.’ A place you never set foot in, Graus. Your number is a false one. The person who did your tattoo made it up on the spot, but that’s the least of it. Until now, it’s worked.”
The old man touched his arm through the flannel bathrobe. He was pale with anger and fear.
“Who the hell are you, you bastard?”
“My name is Anthony Fowler. I want to cut a deal with you.”
“Get out of my house. Right now.”
“I don’t think I’m making myself clear. You were second in command at Am Spiegelgrund Children’s Hospital for six years. It was a very interesting place. Almost all the patients were Jewish and they suffered from mental illness. ‘Lives not worth living,’ isn’t that what you called them?”
“I don’t have the slightest idea what you’re talking about!”
“Nobody suspected what you were doing there. The experiments. Cutting children up while they were still alive. Seven hundred and fourteen, Dr. Graus. You killed seven hundred and fourteen of them with your own hands.”
“I told you—”
“You kept their brains in jars!”
Fowler smashed his fist on the table so hard that both glasses toppled over, and for a moment the only sound was that of the water dripping onto the tiled floor. Fowler took a few deep breaths, attempting to calm himself.
The doctor avoided looking into the green eyes that seemed ready to cut him in half.
“Are you with the Jews?”
“No, Graus. You know I’m not. If I were one of them, you’d be dangling from a noose in Tel Aviv. My . . . affiliation is with the people who facilitated your escape in 1946.”
The doctor repressed a shiver.
“The Holy Alliance,” he muttered.
Fowler did not reply.
“And what does the Alliance want from me after all these years?”
“Something in your possession.”
The Nazi gestured at his surroundings.
“As you can see, I’m not exactly a rich man. I have no money left.”
“If I were after money, I could easily sell you to the attorney general in Stuttgart. They’re still offering 130,000 euros for your capture. I want the candle.”
The Nazi stared at him blankly, pretending not to understand.
“Now you’re the one being ridiculous, Dr. Graus. I’m talking about the candle you stole from the Cohen family sixty-two years ago. A heavy candle without a wick, covered with gold filigree. That’s what I want and I want it now.”
“Take your bloody lies elsewhere. I don’t have any candle.”
Fowler sighed, leaned back on his chair, and pointed at the upturned glasses on the table.
“Do you have anything stronger?”
“Behind you,” Graus said, nodding toward a cupboard.
The priest turned and reached for a bottle that was half full. He picked up the glasses and poured two fingers of bright yellow liquid into each. Both men downed the drinks without making a toast.
Fowler grabbed the bottle again and poured another round. He took a sip, then said: “Weizenkorn. Wheat schnapps. It’s been a long time since I tasted this.”
“I’m sure you haven’t missed it.”
“True. But it’s cheap, isn’t it?”
Graus shrugged his shoulders.
“A man like you, Graus. Brilliant. Vain. I can’t believe you drink this. You’re slowly poisoning yourself in a dirty hole that smells of piss. And you want to know something? I understand . . .”
“You don’t understand a thing.”
“Well done. You still remember the techniques of the Reich. Officers’ Regulations. Section Three. ‘In the event of capture by the enemy, deny everything and give only short answers that will not compromise you.’ Well, Graus, get used to it. You’re compromised up to your neck.”
The old man pulled a face and poured himself the rest of the schnapps. Fowler watched his opponent’s body language as the monster’s resolve slowly crumbled. He was like a painter stepping back after a few brushstrokes to examine the canvas before deciding which colors to use next.
The priest decided to try using the truth.
“Look at my hands, Doctor,” said Fowler, placing them on the table. They were wrinkled, with long delicate fingers. There was nothing strange about them except for one small detail. At the top section of each finger near the knuckles was a thin whitish line that continued right across each hand.
“Those are ugly scars. How old were you when you got them? Ten? Eleven?”
“Twelve. I was practicing the piano: Chopin Preludes, Opus 28. My father came over to the piano and, without any warning, slammed the lid of the Steinway down as hard as he could. It was a miracle I didn’t lose my fingers, but I was never able to play again.”
The priest gripped his glass and seemed to lose himself in its contents before going on. He had never been able to acknowledge what had happened while looking another human being in the eye.
“From the time I was nine years old my father . . . forced himself on me. That day I told him I was going to tell someone if he did it again. He didn’t threaten me. He simply destroyed my hands. Then he cried, asked me to forgive him, and called on the best doctors money could buy. No, Graus. Don’t even think about it.”
Graus had slid his hand under the table, feeling for the cutlery drawer. He quickly withdrew it.
“That’s why I understand you, Doctor. My father was a monster whose guilt went beyond his own capacity to forgive. But he had more guts than you. Rather than slowing down in the middle of a sharp curve, he stepped on the gas and took my mother with him.”
“A very moving story, Father,” Graus said in a mocking tone.
“If you say so. You’ve been hiding in order to avoid facing your crimes, but you’ve been found out. And I’m going to give you what my father never had: a second chance.”
“Give me the candle. In turn you’ll get this file containing all the documents that would serve as your death warrant. You can go on hiding out here for the rest of your life.”
“And that’s it?” said the old man incredulously.
“As far as I’m concerned.”
The old man shook his head and stood up with a tight smile. He opened a small cabinet and pulled out a large glass jar filled with rice.
“I never eat grains. I have an allergy.”
He emptied the rice onto the table. There was a small cloud of starch and a dry thud. Half buried in the rice was a package.
Fowler leaned forward and reached for it, but Graus’s bony paw grabbed his wrist. The priest looked at him.
“I have your word, right?” said the old man anxiously.
“Is it worth anything to you?”
“Yes, as far as I’m concerned.”
“Then you have it.”
The doctor let go of Fowler’s wrist, his own hands trembling. The priest carefully brushed off the rice and lifted out the dark cloth package. It was tied with twine. With great care he undid the knots and unwrapped the cloth. The faint rays of the early Austrian winter filled the filthy kitchen with a golden light that seemed at odds with the surroundings and the dirty gray wax of the thick candle lying on the table. At one time the candle’s entire surface had been covered by a thin sheet of gold worked in an intricate design. Now the precious metal had almost disappeared, leaving only traces of filigree on the wax.
Graus smiled sadly.
“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, which gave off a nauseating smell as it slid down toward the table in gray drops. Graus looked on with bitter irony, as if he enjoyed being able to speak as himself after so many years.
“I find it amusing. The Jew at the pawnshop has been buying Jewish gold for years, thereby supporting a proud member of the Reich. And what you’re witnessing now proves your search has been completely pointless.”
“Appearances can be deceptive, Graus. The gold on this candle is not the treasure I’m after. It’s only a distraction for idiots.”
Like a warning, the flame suddenly sputtered. A pool of wax had accumulated on the cloth below. At the top of what remained of the candle, the green edge of a metallic object was just about visible.
“Good, it’s here,” said the priest. “Now I can leave.”
Fowler stood up and folded the cloth around the candle once more, being careful not to burn himself.
The Nazi watched in astonishment. He was no longer smiling.
“Wait! What is that? What’s inside?”
“Nothing that concerns you.”
The old man stood up, opened the cutlery drawer, and pulled out a kitchen knife. With trembling steps he made his way around the table toward the priest. Fowler watched him, motionless. In the Nazi’s eyes burned the crazed fire of someone who had spent whole nights contemplating that object.
“I have to know.”
“No, Graus. We made a deal. The candle for the file. That’s all you get.”
The old man raised the knife, but the expression on his visitor’s face made him lower it again. Fowler nodded and threw down the file on the table. Slowly, with the cloth bundle in one hand and his briefcase in the other, the priest backed toward the kitchen door. The old man picked up the file.
“There are no other copies, right?”
“Only one. The two Jews waiting outside have it.”
Graus’s eyes nearly leaped out of their sockets. He raised the knife again and advanced toward the priest.
“You lied to me! You said you’d give me a chance!”
Fowler looked at him impassively one last time.
“God will forgive me. Do you think you’ll have as much luck?”
Then, without another word, he disappeared into the hallway.
The priest walked out of the building clutching the precious package to his chest. Two men in gray coats stood guard several feet from the door. Fowler warned them as he passed: “He has a knife.”
The taller of the two cracked his knuckles and a small smile played on his lips.
“Even better,” he said.
© 2010 JUAN GÓMEZ-JURADO
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During WW II the Nazi Butcher of Spiegelgrund conducted painful deadly genetic experiments on Jewish children. A sibling to one of the young victims managed to escape to the United States. Over six decades later, that escapee now New York billionaire Raymond Kayn finally learns where the Nazi genetic butcher has remained in hiding. He dispatches Vatican secret service agent Father Anthony Fowler (see God's Spy) to Austria to obtain an heirloom from the odious Nazi. The heirloom contains a scroll that locates the biblical Ark of the Covenant in the Jordanian desert. At the same time Kahn hires Spanish journalist Andrea Otero (also see God's Spy) to cover his expedition to obtain the sacred Ark. Huqan sends his terrorist agents into the desert to ambush the outsiders. Although over the top of Raiders of the Lost Ark and lacking a consistent lead as a cast worthy of Cecil DeMille rotate the lead, fans will want to join The Moses Expedition from the armchair as terrorist bombs bursting in air and killer insects attack the team. Loaded with international action on four continents, Juan Gomez-Jurado provides a fun suspense thriller for those who can ignore plausibility. Harriet Klausner
New to the work of Juan Gomez-Jurado, I wasn't certain what to expect. I couldn't have anticipated the fast-paced, nonstop action or gut-wrenching thrill that he masterfully packaged into just a few hundred pages. With its high-octane start, the swell of anxiety caused me to ignore my surroundings as I happily sank my teeth into the search with "The Moses Expedition". Father Anthony Fowler is on the hunt; pursuing a one of a kind, priceless object from the past and he is very good at his job. The gold filigree candle-stolen from a Jewish family many years before-is oddly not desired for its precious metal but instead its interior key to unlocking the location of the Ark of the Covenant and the Ten Commandments. Fowler is unaware that this discovery for the Catholic Church will lead him on an expedition straight into the heart and heat of the Jordanian desert under the assumed control of eccentric billionaire, Raymond Kayn. Surrounded by miles of sand, the dig-already treacherous-takes on a new level of terror as the bodies begin to pile up and Fowler's old-fashioned sense of duty and personal mission are at odds with the terrorists who will stop at nothing to win the final prize. Leaping across the globe, Gomez-Jurado can keep pace with any contemporary thriller writer. "The Moses Expedition" is an unquestionable success. Reviewed by Suspense Magazine www.suspensemagazine.com
The Moses Expedition by Juan Gomez-Jurado is the follow-up to God's Spy featuring Father Anthony Fowler who works for both the CIA and the Vatican's secret service. Reclusive billionaire Raymond Kayn has put together an expedition to find the legendary Ark of the Covenant. Each person selected is traveling for their own reasons: Spanish reporter Andrea Otero needs to prove herself after the loss of her job at a high-profile newspaper and painful break-up from lover Eva, Fowler to serve the interests of the agencies for whom he works, plus several security guards, and some crew. Sparks fly between the different groups immediately, and only their quest keeps them from murdering each other at the outset. The story is told through what's happening with the excavation team, some events back in the US organized by Father Fowler, and documents discovered "after the Moses Expedition Disaster", as well as flashbacks to events from WWII that set the expedition on its path. There's lots of political and religious machinations that make nearly everyone untrustworthy with hidden agendas. The chapters are a bit too disjointed on occasion, and when the big reveal comes, it feels almost anticlimactic with all of the other events surrounding it. The author ratchets up the tension and has included a wide variety of fascinating characters, some of whom survive for a potential sequel.
Juan Gómez-Jurado, author of the very popular GOD'S SPY that became an international bestseller despite the proximity in release time and audience obsession with Dan Brown's 2003 THE DA VINCI CODE book and movie, has the spy thriller/historical suspense genre down to a science. In THE MOSES EXPEDITION he once again ably creates disparate characters on both ends of the spectrum of zeal cum intellectual curiosity cum greed, takes time to allow the reader insight into the various personalities and their reasons for the mad dash to the same goal, and provide enough sidebars of tension, romance, necromancy, religious variations, and examination of obsessions that nearly 'force' the reader to continue with the story until the always surprising end. The book is wisely constructed with very short chapters, each headed by a date and time and place so that the reader, in moments of entering an enigmatic part of the story, can easily backtrack to be reminded of the progression of event. Quite briefly, the story is an unraveling of clues and codes that lead to the discovery of the burial ground of the lost Ark of the Covenant, that centuries old container of the original Ten Commandment tablets Moses brought down from the mountain, an important bit of history to all religions as that was the only time that man spoke directly to God. Caught up in this search is Father Fowler who represents both the Holy Alliance of the Vatican and the CIA, the bizarre, reclusive wealthy magnate Raymond Kahn and his attendant body guards, a Professor Forrester who guides the secret mission to the Jordanian Desert Claw Canyon, Andrea Otero, a lesbian journalist ripe for the scoop of the incipient international discovery coup, a female physician, terrorists, militants, and assorted other characters, many of whom fall victim to what appears to be a curse on the discovery of the site of the Ark's resting place. Gómez-Jurado paces the novel well, creates realistic characters and places, and knows how to manage the tension that is almost constantly present in this story. This reader is unsure if part of the occasional lapse in flow of prose is due to the translation from Spanish to English by AV Lebron: the lyrical flow of the writing at times hits a bump that provides what seems to be an unintended jolt in the narrative. Also, the inclusion of the pen and ink 'illustrations' add little to the book except to make it seem as though the reader cannot visualize the prose. But these are minor flaws. The important fact is that Juan Gómez-Jurado has proved to us that he is not a one-shot success: he obviously will be around with his suspenseful and intriguing books of many years to come. On to Hollywood....Grady Harp
Brilliant! Fine read that you can't put down. You won't be disappointed. Please keep them coming! I'll buy anything you write!
Great face paced read - good for fans of Steve Berry and Dan Brown.