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The Last Secret of the Temple    by Paul Sussman order for
Last Secret of the Temple
by Paul Sussman
Order:  USA  Can
Atlantic Monthly Press, 2007 (2006)
Hardcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

At the beginning, several divergent strands seem to be going in different directions in Paul Sussman's provocative new novel, The Last Secret of the Temple.

First, in Jerusalem, in the year 70 A.D., moments before the Jewish temple is about to be overrun and destroyed by Roman soldiers, a young boy is entrusted with 'a great secret, known only to a few,' and - with three important signs to guide him - the young boy will be the first in a succession of seventy generations of individuals who will safely guard the secret.

Second, the chain-smoking police Egyptian inspector Yusuf Ezz el-Din Khalifa begins investigating the death of Piet Jansen, a hotel owner in Luxor. Khalifa wonders about apparent connections to the murder of Hannah Schlegel fifteen years earlier. After all, as Khalifa soon discovers, Jansen 'was a dangerous man' with 'nasty secrets,' and - in very disturbing ways - those secrets may have linked Jansen to the murdered woman. And because of Khalifa's inquiries, Detective Arieh Ben-Roi in Israel begins looking into Hannah Schlegel's background in the Jewish homeland.

Third, Layla al-Madani, a radical Palestinian journalist in Jerusalem, in the course of her contact with extreme Israeli nationalist Baruch Har-Zion, makes a separate discovery that may establish surprising connections between Nazi Germany, the medieval Crusades, and political tensions in present-day Israel and Palestine.

Those divergent strands, however, dramatically and explosively converge in a frantic, action-packed race throughout Europe and the Middle East during which different people with different motivations are determined to find (and either protect or nullify and destroy) a hidden iconic treasure that is supposed to serve as the miraculous fulfillment of an ancient prophecy.

Critically and commercially successful when previously published in the U.K., The Last Secret of the Temple is now available to American readers. Filled with politically-charged dialogue (that also is excessively encumbered by gratuitous expletives) and predicated upon a provocative religious premise, Paul Sussman's thrill-ride is a deftly plotted mystery with plenty of twists-and-turns (and with more than a few red herrings complicating the trail of clues).

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