Thursday, May 03, 2012

The Inquisitor's Key by Jefferson Bass

Dr. Bill Brockton, the forensic anthropologist best known for his research at the University of Tennessee's Body Farm, leaves the U.S. to investigate bones that could be the most important discovery in history.  In Jefferson Bass' The Inquisitor's Key, Brockton's emergency trip to Avignon, France turns out to be a trip into history.

Within twenty-four hours, Brockton leaves a corpse on the ground at the Body Farm, consults with the FBI and DEA on a plane crash involving an undercover agent, and flies to Avignon under false pretenses. Supposedly his grad assistant Miranda, who was working with a French archaeologist had a ruptured appendix. Rushing to be with her, he found out it was a ruse. She and Beauvoir had uncovered an ossuary while excavating a medieval palace, an ossuary with an inscription saying the bones inside belong to Jesus of Nazareth.

Brockton doesn't believe that the bones are those of a thirty-some-year-old man.But, the history of Avignon indicates the bones could be just as disturbing to the Vatican. With Avignon once the home of the Popes, and a city where heretics were tortured and executed as part of the Inquisition, there could be other historic significance to those bones. But, Brockton, Miranda and Beauvoir may have stirred up trouble and unwanted interest.

Not having read any of Bass' previous books, I can't tell if this book is typical of the others. Avignon was a fascinating setting for the book, filled with Church history, literary and art history. And, those aspects of the past were linked beautifully with the contemporary story. However, I had some issues with other elements of the book. The plane crash and the resulting investigation seemed disconnected to the main storyline in Europe. And, I disliked Miranda, one of the primary characters. She came across as immature for a graduate assistant, a young woman who would use false pretenses to get her mentor to pay the money to fly to Europe. I had problems with Miranda's sarcasm, her tone, and her entire demeanor.

The true story behind the bones, based on 14th Century Avignon, is fascinating. But, Bass seemed to throw every mysterious element of Church history into this book - the Knights Templar, the Shroud of Turin, the Inquisition, and the bones of Jesus. It might just be a little much.

As I said, this was the first of Bass' books that I read. I don't know how The Inquisitor's Key measures up to other ones. In this case, the history and the contemporary crimes didn't mix. It works as a historical thriller, however it doesn't stand out as a unique, exciting story.

Here's the book trailer for The Inquisitor's Key if you would like to check it out.

Jefferson Bass' website is

The Inquisitor's Key by Jefferson Bass. HarperCollins. 2012. ISBN 9780062116444 (hardcover), 368p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publicist sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


Kay said...

I haven't read any of this author works either, but I've had my eye on this one. I've had people recommend the series to me. I'll likely try it and see what I think at some point. Perhaps won't rush. LOL

I see you are reading the 2nd book in Sarah Shaber's WWII series. I have it here, but need to get the first book read. Trying to give myself a bit of distance after reading MR. CHURCHILL'S SECRETARY.

Lesa said...

I was actually booktalking Louise's Gamble last night at dinner, Kay. I love all the details of life in the U.S. during WWII. I really like this series.

I'll be interested to see what you think about The Inquisitor's Key when you get around to it.

Anonymous said...

This was the first Body Farm novel I read, & I thoroughly enjoyed it. The name Adam Newman brought a smile to my mouth - yea, Adam was a new man.
I wondered about the reference to "pews" in Chap.30. It has been my understanding that in the Middle Ages & Renaissance, people stood in church. Pews were introduced in the 18th century.
Also, Abraham's wife was Sarah, not Elizabeth, as mentioned in Chap. 30.