Winner of Foreword Magazine's Book of the Year Award for Best Mystery
On assignment in the Middle East, television journalist Cotten Stone stumbles upon an archeological dig that uncovers the world's most-sought-after religious relic: the Holy Grail. With his last dying breath, Dr. Gabriel Archer gives it to Cotten, uttering "You are the only one" in a language she's heard from only one other personher deceased twin sister.
What begins as a hot news story for the ambitious young reporter soon turns into a nightmare when the Holy Grail is stolen and strange "accidents" befall her dearest friends. Running for her life, she turns to John Tyler, a priest with firsthand knowledge of religious artifacts, for help. An anonymous source leads them to New Orleans during Mardi Gras, where an abominable experiment is underway thatunless destroyedpromises to unleash an ancient evil upon the Earth.
"This page-turner is bound to show up on Da Vinci Code read-alike lists at public libraries across the country."Library Journal
"Religion and science battle through a spectacular hold-your-breath conclusion when the Holy Grail supplies the blood of Christ to the forces of evil."M. Diane Vogt, author of Six Bills and other Willa Carson Novels
"The Grail Conspiracy is an auspicious debut from a dig in the deserts of Iraq to the inner sanctum of the Knights Templar, this multi-layered tale is a gripping blend of modern science, ancient ritual, and page-turning suspense. Next time you face the dark side, you'll want Cotten Stone, this gutsy, intelligent and engaging heroine at your side."Christine Kling, author of Cross Current and Surface Tension
"If you liked The Da Vinci Code, run out and buy this book! Modern technology mixed with mythology make for a fast read. This globe-trotting adventure story with biblical undertones will keep you hooked!"Nancy J. Cohen, author of the Bad Hair Day mystery series
About the Author
Lynn Sholes has worked as a writing trainer for Broward County Schools and Citrus County Schools in Florida. Before writing thrillers her interest in archaeology led her to write historical fiction under the name Lynn Armistead McKee. Lynn is a member of the International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America, and The Authors Guild.
Joe Moore is a former marketing & communications executive and two-time EMMY® winner with 25 years experience in the television postproduction industry. Joe serves on the International Thriller Writers board of directors as Co-President. He writes full time from his home in South Florida.~
Read an Excerpt
Nineveh, Northern Iraq
"Get out!" The Iraqi driver's thin, high-pitched voice filled the car. Sand and dust spewed up as the vehicle skidded to a stop.
Jarred awake, Cotten Stone sat upright. "What?" She tried to focus in the gathering twilight.
"Out! I drive no American."
The radio blared the frantic-paced voice of an Iraqi announcer.
"What is it?" she asked. "What's wrong?"
The driver threw open his door and ran to the rear of the car.
Cotten tugged the rusty door handle until it finally gave with a squeak. "Hey, what are you doing?" she called, jumping out.
He opened the trunk and tossed her two bags onto the shoulder of the highway.
"You can't leave me here," she said, coming around to the back of the car. "This is the middle of the damn desert."
The driver cocked his head toward the voice on the radio.
She picked up the duffle bag that held her videotapes and chucked it back into the trunk. "Listen, I gave you all the cash I have. I don't have any more." She turned her pocket inside out. It was just a little lie. She had squirreled away close to two hundred dollars and stuffed it inside an empty film container. Her emergency stash. "Do you understand? See, no more money. I paid you to take me to the border."
The driver jabbed her shoulder with a stiff forefinger. "End of ride for American." He yanked the bag out again and slammed it into her chest, sending her stumbling backward. Then he was around the car and in the driver's seat, grinding the gears and spinning the old Fiat around.
"I don't believe this," she said. Cotten dropped the bag on the ground beside her other one and threaded a loose strand of tea-colored hair behind her ear, watching the taillights fade.
The soft whisper of the desert wind carried the first chill of the evening as the January sky turned from rose to indigo. Cotten pulled the hooded parka from her carryall and slipped it on, feeling the cold already creeping through her.
She jogged in place, hands stuffed deep in her pockets. Darkness, thick as Iraqi crude, poured over the desert. Someone was bound to come along had to come along, she thought.
Ten minutes passed with no sign of another vehicle. Finally, she grabbed the handles of her two carryalls and started walking. Gravel and sand crunched like glass chips under her field boots. She glanced behind, wishing for the glow of headlights, but there was only dark, barren desert.
"I should have known better than to trust that guy." Her voice cracked from the dryness. Whatever he'd heard on the radio must have spooked the shit out of him. Cotten knew U.S. forces were gearing up for an invasion. The rumors had been flying around the foreign press corp. for weeks as the war drums grew louder in Washington and London. It was no secret that there were already small insertion teams of American and British forces in the country. The invasion might still be months away, but it was hard to hide the buildup of forces in the Arab countries bordering Iraq to the south. The local Arab news buzzed with sightings of Special Forces and Army Rangers appearing and disappearing in the middle of the night. There were even strategic flyovers of fighters, Predator drones, and high altitude recon aircraft testing the vulnerabilities of the Iraqi missile and radar installations.
Cotten hoisted the strap higher on her shoulder. "It's your own fault," she said. "You're so damn headstrong."
A few weeks ago she had stood in the office of SNN's News Director, Ted Casselman, and begged for the assignment to cover the effects of economic sanctions on the women and children of Iraq. It was an important story, she thought, and she didn't care how unstable the region was. Americans needed to see what sanctions did to innocents. And, she told Casselman, if the U.S. had plans to attack Iraq, she wanted to be there, right smack in the center of the action.
Cotten didn't mention that she also needed to put some distance between her and Thornton Graham. She didn't tell Casselman because she knew she would probably fall apart if she had to explain. The emotional wound was still too raw. Her request to do the story made perfect sense as it was an eager, hungry reporter and she wanted an assignment that would make world headlines.
The Satellite News Network didn't send rookies on assignments in such volatile locations, Casselman told her repeatedly. Yes, he conceded, she had talent and promise. Yes, he felt she could manage the pressure. And yes, he agreed that a Middle East assignment right now was a perfect opportunity to launch a successful career. However, not only was she a rookie, she was a woman, and a woman in Iraq in the current conditions was out of the question. Once the war started, the only journalists would be those chosen in advance by the military and embedded with the troops. And they would only be male. The rules were set, and the answer was no.
She became incensed and began a tirade about the unfairness of it all.
Casselman cut her off with another firm, "No."
After she calmed down, Cotten finally got him to agree to let her tag along with a group of reporters as far as the Turkish border. From there she could cover the plight of any refugees fleeing north once the conflict began.
He was furious when he learned she went on to Baghdad.
Then his call came this morning ordering her to leave. "Things are going to get dicey. Get your sweet ass out of there any way you can. And I want to see you as soon as you get back. Clear?"
She tried to reason with him and buy more time, but he hung up before she could make her case.
When she got home he was going to I-told-you-so, I-should-fire-you her to death. That was if she got home. Cotten shivered. She was stranded and freezing in the middle of the Iraqi desert.
* * *
Charles Sinclair stared out his office window at the sprawling campus surrounding the BioGentec laboratories near the University of New Orleans. The blue of Lake Pontchartrain lay beyond. He watched the small army of groundskeepers with their John Deere mowers and golf cart utility vehicles moving across the lawn and among the gardens manicured and in perfect order. He liked perfect order.
The phone on his desk chirped, and he jumped, spilling a few drops of the chicory coffee onto the Persian rug.
"Dr. Sinclair, you have an international call on line eight," his secretary said.
Sinclair punched the blinking button. He wouldn't take this call on the speakerphone. "This is Sinclair." The hiss of the connection annoyed him as he pressed the receiver firmly to his ear.
"We uncovered the entrance to the crypt two days ago," the man on the other end said. "Late this afternoon, it was opened."
Sinclair's knuckles whitened as he clutched the phone. "Ahmed, I hope you have good news." He paced.
"I do. Everything is just as Archer predicted."
"What did you find?"
"Many artifacts with the bones," Ahmed continued. "Armor, religious trinkets, some scrolls, and a box."
Adrenaline streaked through Sinclair's body making his fingertips tingle. "What does the box look like?"
"Black, no markings, about fifteen centimeters square."
Perspiration softened the starch in the white collar of Sinclair's Armani shirt. Static filled the pause before he spoke again. "And its contents?"
"I do not know."
"What do you mean? You were there, weren't you?"
"Archer did not open it. He and the others are packing to leave as we speak. We must abandon the site the area is becoming too dangerous. Everyone is nervous. There is no time to examine "
"No!" Sinclair pinched the bridge of his nose. "You go back immediately and get the box. Have Archer show you how to open it. Call me as soon as you confirm what's inside and you have it securely in your possession. Do you understand?"
"Yes." Ahmed's voice sank into the static.
"Ahmed," he said, keeping his voice low and controlled, "it is imperative that you complete your assignment. I cannot stress that enough."
Sinclair hung up the phone and stared at the receiver. The Arab could not even begin to understand.
Table of Contents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
What do you get when you put together a great plot idea and a believable heroine with a uniquely imaginative background? A fun thriller called The Grail Conspiracy! For readers who are thrill seekers this novel has it all. The authors take us from an archeological dig in Iraq, to the shores of Miami--from the cutting edge headlines of current science, to the ancient secrets of an old religion. Pay attention because there are some really neat facts to take away from this read! Cotten Stone is a heroine unlike other heroines. She has a special family legacy that puts the task of saving humanity from evil squarely on her shoulders. You will really begin to feel for her as she has to fulfill her destiny while running for her life. For those who liked the Divinci Code and are hungry for something with even more imagination...buy this book now!
I thought I was going to get a DaVinci Code wannabee, so I wasn't that excited about reading The Grail Conspiracy, but I thought I would give it a try. Wow, was I in for a surprise. Where have these authors been? I started reading the book the evening I bought it. I couldn't put it down and didn't, not until about 2:00 in the morning! I had to read the next page. This story is absolutely new territory, touching on a lot of issues that both intrigued me and made me stop to think--and I'm still thinking. The research involved must have been extensive and exciting itself. What is interesting is the authors let us in on some of the research with little bits of information between chapters. To me, that made it even more believable and added many an AHA! The twists at the end blew me away. Cotten Stone is a new heroine, unlike any other, (I won't spoil it for you and tell you why she is so special. You'll learn that in the prologue) and so real I believe everything that happened. As a matter of fact, I still have that tiny seed in my head--could this really be true? Great, great read.
A great religious thriller!
The Grail Conspiracy is an excellent read. I liked it better than Dan Brown, Da Vinci Code. From the beginning, Sholes captures your attention when a grail is found in modern day with a drop of blood. Whose blood, Jesus? You will enjoy all the twists and turns in this fantastic novel!
The Cotten Stone Series are just fun reading. The story is fast moving and will hold your attention.
Satellite News Network reporter Cotten Stone is in Iraq covering the effects of economic sanctions on women and children when her local driver abruptly dumps her in the middle of the desert. She luckily finds an archeological dig headed by Dr. Gabriel Archer, but before she ask for help Cotten sees an Arab demands Archer hand over something before shooting the archeologist. Archer manages to kill the Arab, but knows he is dying so he quotes the bible, insists she is the one and tells her to take the box and run in a language that she only heard uttered by her deceased twin sister Motnees. The Turks help get her to Ankara and from there via the U.K. to New York. She scans the archival news reports on Archer, but finds only the kind words of Reverend Dr. John Tyler, once a student of Archer, upbeat. However, the box and her related video are stolen making her wonder if she had the Holy Grail as Archer implied. Since John teaches at nearby St. Thomas College in White Plains, Cotten visits him to obtain his help. They soon unravel a clue that leads to New Orleans where Dr. Charles Sinclair of BioGentec Laboratories heads an ignoble experiment that could start Armageddon. --- THE GRAIL COMPANY is an action-packed Christian medical thriller that cleverly uses background news reports to set the date with the American military buildup just beginning. The story line never slows down from the moment Archer says: ¿Geh el crip¿ (you¿re the one) until the final confrontation in New Orleans. This fascinating biblical science fiction tale is more a twenty-first century Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail than a Brown clone with thank God the sequel THE LAST SECRET coming out shortly. --- Harriet Klausner
I wasn't sure what to expect when I started this book, but soon I found myself unable to put it down. Very descriptive writing that really helped me visualize the characters and story in my head. This would be a great movie. Lots of suspense but the payoff is worthwhile. I found myself wanting more when I finished the book. Looking forward to another hit from these authors!
This is an incredibly fast paced thriller ride. It takes the Da Vinci Code to a brand new level. The Grail Conspiracy isn't the same story as Dan Brown's at all, but it's the same type of experience, only better. It raises some interesting and controversial issues regarding science, religion, and blind faith. The characters are well-developed and memorable (they stayed on my mind long after finishing the book), and there is no flab in the writing to slow it down. From the first page on, hold on to your seats. And the end was very satisfying. It's definitley a keeper on my shelf. I hope to read more from Sholes and Moore soon.
Very predictable. Could not find the thrill in any of the chapters. After reading good reviews I was expecting for something captivating, this book is weak, there is no way you could carry an interesting conversation about the book's plot.
I had no idea what to expect when i started this book. After being an avid enjoyer of all things Da Vinci Code i was a little hesitant to read something else with a similar theme, or so i thought. The books are very different with very different theories on the grail. It is more of a science fiction novel than anything else and if you are a Christian, the tid-bits of information about its links to the bible will be found interesting. It is a great story line and wonderfully written. My only complaint was that John became a bishop and couldn't have served God in a form that allowed him to marry Cotten. I'm hopping with the next book, The Last Secret, he will play as strong role as he did in this one.