English Translation: Kari Dickson
John Murray (Publishers): London
I often am suspicious of the novels promoted by Amazon.com under the assurance that “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…” I have also become somewhat jaded with the torrent of archaeological thrillers that promise to pry open an ancient religious secret that will topple a great world religion, or possibly all great religions. And my skepticism becomes finely tuned when the promotional blurb says something like “A treat for fans of Dan Brown.”
Tom Egeland’s The Guardians of the Covenant met all three of these criteria, but for some reason I purchased the book—perhaps it was because of the $3.00 plus shipping cost for a “like new” used copy, or my curiosity being piqued by the promise of a protagonist who was a Norwegian albino archaeologist. Regardless, I took the plunge and was mesmerized by the results! Tom Egeland has written a fascinating archaeological caper that takes our intrepid hero all over the globe in search of an artifact that has potentially devastating consequences for the three great religions that arose out of the caldron that was the ancient Middle East: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. But he has taken this tired old plot device and breathed new life in it—not an easy thing to do! He has also created a protagonist who is wonderfully complex: a very bright young scholar who doesn’t exactly lack courage, but one who recognizes his own limitations and has, admittedly, a surplus of neuroses and a delightfully self-deprecating sense of humor. Bjorn Belto is a hero for the 21st Century!
I won’t give away the plot, or even the mcguffin that has archaeologists, an Arab sheikh, assorted denizens of the underworld, a monomaniacal tycoon who traces his lineage back to Columbus’s discovery of the New World, and the Vatican chasing all over the world to discover. Bjorn’s quest to unearth the secrets of the nebulous Guardians of the Covenant takes him on a journey in time from 14th century BC Egypt to11th century Norway to the Vatican in the 12th and 16th centuries and Iceland in the 1200s; in the present day, he follows the trail of this mystical artifact from Iceland to Norway to England to Egypt to Italy to the United States and finally to a surprising denouement in the Dominican Republic! Suffice it to say that any novel that features these globe-trotting exploits and features Viking berserkers sailing up the Nile in search of plunder will get certainly grab and keep my attention!
Four trowels for this delightful and literate tale of high adventure.