Dr. George R. Honig and Michael Crichton have something in common. They are/were both medical doctors. They have also written books involving genetics. Honig and an associate wrote a textbook and Crichton wrote a best-selling novel, Next.
The Alexandria Letter reminds me of another religious-historical novel I recently reviewed that represented a genre with which I was not previously familiar: re-imagined history. Hmmmm…isn’t that what whichever political party in power is often accused of when putting their spin on significant events?
Honig’s protagonist, Nathan Tobin, a Cambridge scholar (studying poetry), discovers an ancient Aramaic document that turns out to be the namesake of the novel. Readers see the contents of the letter interspersed with Tobin’s adventure of historical and self-discovery. Will the contents of this parchment challenge the healing methods of Jesus?
The chapters that make up the somewhat lengthy letter are printed in all italics. This reviewer found that feature both distracting and unnecessary. Surely other tricks of the printers’ trade could have been used to distinguish the ancient document without risk of annoying readers. I dreaded the end of chapters featuring Tobin’s current events for fear of another page full of italics.
In novels featuring short time frames and high velocity action as the hero races against the clock or uncontrollable events, we can forgive lack of character development. From villains in the Vatican and on Wall Street to potentially interesting academia types, there are lots of people here we’d like to get to know better—what motivates them and how they are significant. The Alexandria Letter’s present day action spreads out well over a year — ample time for us to learn enough about the characters to care more about what happens to them — but we miss that opportunity. Weeks and months pass in a fleeting sentence and in the meantime, a love interest develops but we don’t sense any real emotion.
Dr. Honig had a good idea for a plot and should have gotten a second opinion before going to press.