Successful books set the standard for entire genres. In religious fiction, the bar was raised when Dan Brown’s novel The DaVinci Code broke sales records, eventually becoming one of the most talked about and most widely read books in modern publishing. Its popularity grew further with the release of a major motion picture of the same name starring Tom Hanks. The DaVinci Code accomplished many things, one of which was that it established religious fiction as a moneymaking genre, allowing others to follow. However, the authors of those books would have to raise their game in order to pass into acceptance from what is fast becoming a theologically educated fan base of readers.
In the novel Unholy Grail, Father Romano, a Jesuit priest, finds himself intimately connected to a series of murders conducted in a style that suggests that a psychotic religious fanatic is on the loose. During this string of murders, Romano crosses paths with Brittney Hamar, a college teacher of religion who is writing a groundbreaking book called The Jesus Fraud. The two become bound by their mutually passionate desire to discover the truth about a bloodline that might be traced all the way back to Jesus Christ and the organization that has been keeping it a secret.
Parallels to The DaVinci Code cannot be avoided; Unholy Grail carries with it the same central theme. It has two roving characters, one academic, the other investigative, and of course the looming threat of a deadly agent determined to stop them from learning what should not be known. The differences are not in the favor of Unholy Grail. The characters are less interesting and less believable, and the storyline moves with a choppy pace that lacks action, giving the reader picture scenes of where something had once happened, but scenery doesn’t trump action.
In the publishing world, timing is important. Had the book come out five years earlier it may have made an impact. Clearly, the story was meant to teach certain lessons concerning faith and skepticism, but anyone who is steadily reading books in this genre will not learn much here that hasn’t already been written elsewhere.