Author: Michael Byrnes
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Edition released: June 2007
ISBN: 978-1-8473-7011-2
438 pages
Review by: Karen Chisholm

THE SACRED BONES is another entry in the recently well-populated field of confrontational religious themed thrillers. When a well armed, well organised small group break through the walls of the mosque in the Temple Mount in Jerusalem they appear to have been very well informed. Blowing a hole in the wall in exactly the right place to reveal an unknown burial crypt, they move straight past a number of ossuaries taking only the one deepest in the chamber. Their escape, facilitated by a stolen Israeli helicopter, leaves Palestinians outraged over the desecration of sacred ground and Israeli's equally outraged over the deaths of thirteen soldiers during the resulting fire-fight.

In the meantime Italian anthropologist Giovanni Bersei and American geneticist Charlotte Hennesey have been summoned to Vatican City to analyse a mysterious archaeological treasure that could prove to be one of the greatest secrets, the ossuary contains a human skeleton, approximately 2,000 years old, obvious speared, obviously crucified. Forces within Vatican City are very troubled over the existence of the skeleton and the implications to the very foundations of belief.

Starting out reading THE SACRED BONES it was very very hard to shake the feeling that if you can manage to offend 3 major worldwide religions then you've got the possibility of a run away best seller. Fortunately the story helps a little in dispelling that fear as, frankly, there's some points of supposed scientific revelation in here that were impossible for this reader (no doctor / geneticist granted) to swallow. Maybe part of the reason for that was some credibility gaps for the main "experts", who seemed to ask questions and make statements that just didn't stack up, maybe part of the reason was that the story had elements that were just too way out to be feasible and hence, the book read as an outrageous over the top thriller.

And as an over the top thriller there were some really funny elements - two of the main characters in severe danger of dying in a hail of sniper bullets, and the scenes around the destruction of the car they were driving were laid out in such detail it was hilarious. The time it takes for the two experts to eventually have the discussion about "whose bones do you think they could be" - the reader can have a wonderful time playing "go on ... say it .. I dare you" games. The sinister security consultant for the Vatican "lurking" around in the shadows everywhere that Charlotte goes, who then conveniently leaves doors open for discoveries to be made. The much commented on loveliness of Charlotte - more homely geneticists obviously would not qualify for this particular task. The Irish (yes Irish) priest, with the murderous background who manages to kill a lurking, dangerous killer in the middle of Rome with seemingly nobody noticing. All great over the top stuff.

THE SACRED BONES might not make it as an entrant in the encouraging controversy stakes but for a totally over the top, really silly bit of light entertainment, it was good fun to play spot the cliché in.

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