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Bestseller Lustbader (The Bourne Legacy) jumps on the Da Vinci Code bandwagon with this high-octane but familiar tale of yet another lost gospel that would rock the Catholic world. This time, the secret for which the faithful are not prepared is that Jesus was restored to life by "The Quintessence," the mysterious fifth element, rather than by divine assistance. Competing secret factions, of course, pursue this substance, with its promise of eternal life, plus a fragment of the Testament of Jesus Christ, which confirms its existence. The cloak-and-dagger war draws in Bravo Shaw, a medieval scholar whose father was a secret member of the centuries-old Order of the Gnostic Observatines before the repressive Knights of St. Clement murdered him. With the help of Jenny Logan, another Gnostic Observatine agent, Bravo dodges death and betrayal every few pages. Dan Brown fans who like their thrillers dressed up with research and ingenious puzzles won't find much of that here, but the action-packed story will keep them turning the pages anyway. (Sept.)
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After Braverman "Bravo" Shaw's father dies unexpectedly (and under very suspicious circumstances), Bravo discovers that Dad was a member of an ancient and secret religious order charged with guarding a document, allegedly written by Christ himself--yes, it's another of those artifacts that could tear apart Christianity. Bravo, a cryptanalyst and medieval-history expert, teams up with a young woman who claims to be a member of the order, and together they attempt to find Christ's testament. One more shameless rip-off of The Da Vinci Code? Not quite. For hard-core fans of the -religious-historical thriller, there is just (barely) enough originality here to make the story palatable. Van Lustbader's characters aren't exactly the same as Brown's, and the plot doesn't unfold precisely the way Brown's does, so if you're consumed with Christian conspiracy theories, you're likely to focus on what's new and ignore the many similarities between the two books. And with genre veteran Van Lustbader a card-carrying member of the plotcentric school, there are no worries about complex characters getting in the way of the action. David Pitt
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