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Book Review: The Testament by Eric Van Lustbader

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The Testament is a confounding thriller by Eric Van Lustbader. The plot centers around the search for the hidden secrets of the Order of Gnostic Observatines. Braverman "Bravo" Shaw must follow a trail of clues left for him by his deceased father, who trained Bravo to be his reluctant successor. Bravo is joined on his adventure by the obligatory love interest, Observatine agent Jenny Logan. They are pursued throughout the book by agents of the Knights of St. Clement, continuing an age-old enmity between the two orders.

There is much to like in this book. Lustbader's prose is superior to most writers in the genre, and his style is highly accessible. Also, on several occasions I found myself questioning what seemed to be a foolish action by a particular character, only to turn the page and discover the reasoning behind the decision. The search is fast-paced and the resolution satisfying.

The greatest strength, though, is Lustbader's ability to keep the reader guessing as to who are the good guys and bad guys. The reader is kept guessing right along with Bravo, whose own suspicions and misunderstandings affect the critical decisions he makes. The tangled, confused identities and relationships balance out a storyline that does not have as many twists and turns as I would have liked.

On the negative side of the ledger is the fact that this is yet another thriller in the style of The DaVinci Code. Bravo's clues involve complicated numerical ciphers, but beyond that there is not much to set this story apart. The historical back-story is paper-thin, and not much detail is given regarding the respective orders, or the secrets themselves. The European setting of the story is not truly done justice, the locales coming across like a painted backdrop on a theatre stage.

There is also no gradual unveiling of the mystery of what exactly the secrets are. For 150 pages or so we are in the dark, then suddenly a character says, "Oh, by the way, this is what you're looking for." Also, one of the critical plot points is that the Knights must obtain the secrets in order to save the dying pope. The author offers no explanation as to why it is critical that this particular pope live. Won't they just elect a new one?

Overall, this book is worth the read if you like religious-historical action thrillers. The Testament is weak on the research and historical background, but strong on action and entertainment.

Rating: 7.5/10

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  • This article has been selected for syndication to Advance.net, which is affiliated with newspapers around the United States. Nice work!