Rise of the Apostle continues the Eye Witness story exactly where it left off in Acts of the Spirit. Forensic archaeologist Dr. Terry Harper’s life has been threatened time and again after the unearthing of an ossuary containing a firsthand account of the historical Gospel by Joseph of Arimathea and the three nails believed to be those from the crucifixion of Christ. Such a monumental discovery threatens to destabilize the Middle East, and Israeli minister of antiquities Joshua Riban warns of a new wave of anti-Semitism, prompting his suggestion for a cover-up. Harper refuses, stating that for the sake of science the truth must be told. The result is him being targeted attack by a suicide bomber. While recovering in the hospital, Harper is routinely poisoned in attempts on his life by a nurse whose child is held hostage by mysterious agents.
The story takes new turns in Rise of the Apostle. Riban’s cover-up proves to be a red herring to the much more dangerous and mysterious economic organization called the Global Development Corporation. They are willing to bribe, kidnap, assassinate, and murder their own to tie up loose ends. Their network goes deep, even into corrupt military figures, and they are preparing for something big that cannot allow the announcement of the ossuary.
In Harper’s corner is Mac, a cunning ex-CIA operative who has gone into retirement. He seems to have moved onto a life as a do-gooder, helping out Harper due to altruism or at least despising oppressive forces. Mac has an intricately assembled network of secret passages, hideouts, and allies that enable him to escape men-in-black with Harper’s journal. The two reunite as Mac sneaks Harper out of Israel on a cargo ship in a container decked out like an apartment. With his exciting past in espionage, seemingly endless tricks, and laidback roadie lifestyle, Mac is Luedke’s best character to date.
Interwoven with the modern storyline is the ancient account of the conversion of the powerful Pharisee Saul to the Apostle Paul. The man who once was the scourge of the early Church, driving converts out of Jerusalem, has pursued them to Damascus, where Christ appears to him in a literally blinding light. The story tells his time of purification in the desert and return to Jerusalem where both Pharisee and Christian alike distrust him. Without a home, he is encouraged to take up traveling mission work, where he discovers a number of churches founded in cities across the eastern Mediterranean because of refugees from his own earlier oppression. Paul himself now suffers at the hands of many foes, leading up to his apparent death by stoning in the city of Lystra. In parallel in the modern storyline, Harper disembarks the cargo ship while an assassin waits with a sniper rifle.
RotA is the best yet of the Eye Witness series. The plot takes a great twist that deepens the intrigue from simple politics to economics and paramilitary espionage. While Harper takes a lesser role in the book, the supporting cast steps up to show their own quality, especially Mac. The use of biblical story in parallel again works well, especially as the stories are able to focus around a singular protagonist in Paul. The cliffhanger ending is heart-stopping and makes the reader hurry on to find out what happens in Book Four, The Unknown God.
Five out of Five Stars