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Unholy Grail    by D. L. Wilson order for
Unholy Grail
by D. L. Wilson
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Like Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, D. L. Wilson's Unholy Grail features a secret society (Rex Deus) connected with the Catholic Church, a ruthless assassin, a man and a woman brought together by research and violence, plenty of action, and questions about long-held Christian beliefs - and about the bloodline of Jesus Christ. But the reader will find very significant differences as well.

The novel stars a Jesuit priest, Father Joseph Romano, who has long held doubts about his dedication to the priesthood though not about his faith. Romano is assisted in his research by two young - and very competent - graduate students, Charlie and Carlota. As the story opens, Romano receives a mysterious call to a meeting at Grand Central Terminal, where he's promised a box 'containing original parchment written by the hand of Jesus' brother, James. It describes in detail what really happened at the Crucifixion.' Of course he goes.

In parallel we see an assassin, Gabriel, as he sets about the murders of a succession of Jesuit priests - who have links to Romano, and who were visited before their deaths by Brittany Hamar, a professor with a tragic past, now working on a controversial book entitled The Jesus Fraud (and who has received information from a mysterious Messenger). Gabriel considers himself 'the chosen one ... the one to return Christianity to its original state of innocence.'

Romano goes to the meeting place and, after witnessing the shooting of a lovely blonde woman in the shoulder, has a box thrust upon him - but it contains a gun, not a manuscript. The police, FBI, and Interpol are soon involved. Romano meets Brittany and - though they have to agree to disagree on their beliefs about the Church - they set off on an investigation together, first to Vienna and then to a small French village high in the Pyrénées. Violence and murder follow close behind them.

Unholy Grail is a good read, one of the better spin-offs from the popularity of Dan Brown's novel. It ends with an explosion of action, followed by Wilson's tying off his plot's various loose ends in tidy - and satisfying - knots.

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