Ten years ago, Ian Caldwell and his co-author, Dustin Thomason, struck gold with The Rule of Four, a page-turning academic mystery with emotional depth. Now, after a decade of research, writing and rewriting, Caldwell is back with a solo effort, a new novel that promises to live up to The Rule of Four. And The Fifth Gospel delivers, with compelling characters, impeccable pacing and a central enigma that is as intellectually satisfying as it is emotionally harrowing.
The year is 2004, and Pope John Paul II is nearing the end of his time leading the Roman Catholic Church while still working to fulfill a few final wishes. The Vatican is rocked, though, when a curator turns up murdered in Rome just a week before he was set to unveil a powerful new exhibit in the Vatican Museums. When police can’t find a suspect, Greek Catholic priest Alex Andreou—a friend of the curator and expert on the Gospels—takes it upon himself to unravel the mystery, one that concerns a mysterious fifth Gospel manuscript, a legendary relic and a secret that could shake the church to its core.
Caldwell constructs the novel’s central puzzle masterfully, weaving between past and present, danger and intrigue, codes and obfuscations at a blistering pace that makes the more than 400-page novel breeze by. But the key to The Fifth Gospel’s effectiveness is Alex’s emotional, intense point of view. Caldwell has woven a tale that’s as much about brotherhood, faith, the sins of the past and what it means to atone as it is about the central mystery and its faith-shattering secrets. The Fifth Gospel is rooted in a powerful, very human emotional core.