Curt Weeden & Richard Marek,
Book of Nathan
(Oceanview, 2010)

There were many books of the Bible that were left out many, many years ago, either because they were lost, someone felt the need to trim the tome down, someone decided they were unworthy or someone disagree with some of the contents. Now, fast-forward to contemporary times. A French researcher finds one of these lost books, the Book of Nathan, manages to decipher and translate the book from its original Aramaic, and finds something that would be of extreme interest now: Nathan indicated that God had revealed the precise moment of ensoulment. Ensoulment means the moment when the soul enters a person, which would then give Christians a pinpointing of when abortion becomes murder. At conception? The beginning of the second trimester? With the first breath of the newborn? You can see why the Book of Nathan would be of great interest to both pro-life and pro-choice advocates. And thus the bidding begins.

A very large man with low intellectual ability and almost incomprehensible speech, nicknamed Zeus, lives in a men's shelter, and is accused of beating a world-famous evangelist to death. Zeus was an avid follower of the evangelist. What does this have to do with the Book of Nathan? The evangelist, Dr. Benjamin Kurios, was rumored to have a copy of this biblical text, and he was going to discuss it at a worldwide telecasted gathering. What happened to the computer disc with the translated Book of Nathan? That is the million-dollar question -- or, rather, the five-million-dollar question.

Did the incarcerated Zeus steal the disc? If not, where is it? Who are the bidders trying to buy it? How far will they go to win? What does Twyla Tharp have to do with any of this?

Rick "Bullet" Bullock is the man who runs the Gateway shelter for men. With some help from his fundraising-genius friend, Doug Kool, Bullet flies down to Orlando, Fla., to figure out if Zeus, the gentle, religious giant, could really have killed the evangelist. But help from Doug always comes with a price: Bullet has to escort a prostitute-turning-actress to a job interview in Orlando, and the girl happens to be a mobster's niece. Bullet takes two men with him on the trip, a former professor with a gambling problem and a regular but homeless guy who happens to be good at problem-solving. Once they arrive, they meet the court-appointed attorney for Zeus, Yigal Rosenblatt, who immediately falls in love with the would-be actress. Yigal is a bit goofy and very hyperactive. His legal competence is questionable.

Who gets the disc? What does the Book of Nathan say about ensoulment? Where did the $5 million go? Who lives and who dies? What happened to the enormous Asian thug?

The writing here is fast-paced and crisp, after a slow start during the set-up of the characters, premise and setting. The characters are well-developed and almost uniformly quirky. It took me a while to figure out if this was a farce, a mystery, or a combination of the two. While it is not quite as good as Rob Kroese's Mercury Falls, it comes close.

I tend to avoid religion-based books, but this one has the religion as a backdrop. The abortion topic is handled very well, without taking any side but presenting differing points of view in a balanced manner.

I thoroughly enjoyed this 264-page comedic mystery-thriller.

book review by
Chris McCallister

18 September 2010

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