In an attempt to meld religion and history la Indiana Jones, Sheffield and Bischoff (The Selke) have created a legendary Cross of Judas that is supposed to bring great amoral power to its guardian. Passed from generation to generation of the Knights of the Twelfth Apostle, the power of the cross is invoked when used with the Rite of Abraham, so called because of the ultimate sacrifice it requires from the guardian. The setting of the book is WWI, and the Germans are gathering strength to march to Paris when the Marquis Louis Villette is entrusted with the guardianship of the cross. Desperate for an end to the war and a French victory, Villette has already begun the Rite of Abraham when Jenny Marshall arrives at his Chateau Cirelle to nurse her father, who is recovering there. As the love affair between Jenny and the Marquis deepens, Villette's need to make the ultimate sacrifice also grows. The romantic ideal of the Knights stands at stark contrast to the novel's rather elementary dialogue. Muddled with the supposed history of the cross are supporting characters who are never fully developed, such as a German corporal obsessed with the cross, who finally gets it in the unusually grisly end of this rather contrived tale. (Dec.)
As the armies of the Kaiser advance through France, a secret war for the possession of an ancient artifact said to contain the soul of Judas Iscariot comes to a critical point in the chateau of the Marquis Villette (the cross's current guardian). While the Germans seek to acquire the item, the cross begins to exercise its own subtle corruptive influence over its safekeeper. This supernatural thriller by veteran sf authors Sheffield (Godspeed, LJ 11/15/93) and Bischoff (Gremlins Two: The New Batch, Avon, 1990) should appeal to fans of history and horror.