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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Last Secret of the Temple by Paul Sussman

The Last Secret of the Temple by Paul Sussman. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2005, ISBN: 978-0-87113-972-6

If thrillers with a religious background are your thing, à la The Da Vinci Code, then this book is definitely for you. Much of the action takes place in Israel or Egypt, and the current conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians is a major theme.

The crux of the story, however, revolves around an ancient Jewish artifact, supposedly the very Menorah, the golden candlestick that graced Solomon's temple, somehow preserved through all the centuries, and now the object of desire for both the enemies and defenders of Israel.

Of course, the very notion that the original Menorah had survived into the second temple era (where the prologue to our story takes place) is preposterous, and without any historical foundation that I'm aware of. The furnishings of Solomon's temple were carried off to Babylon, and I've never read or heard anything to suggest that any of them were ever returned.

Not to mention that the true object of Jewish devotion, the center of their faith, and the holiest object of the first temple was NOT the Menorah, but rather the Ark of the Covenant, a fact which this book conveniently ignores, giving to the Menorah, this golden candlestick, the pride of place, the sacred significance, even the supernatural power (the Menorah's light never goes out, you see, and its oil never needs replenishing, for all those centuries from then until now) that rightfully belonged to the Ark.

Then one of the crusaders supposedly finds a great secret, and transports it back to France. Was it the Menorah? Apparently Hitler's archaeologists thought so, and they hunted down this treasure and hid it in one of the mountain mines in the last days of the Third Reich.

Oh well, all of the symbolic inaccuracy aside, the book is a real thriller, a true page turner. There is plenty of action, and lots of twists and turns to the plot, with enough surprise endings to keep anyone entertained. Definitely not fiction of the top caliber, but you won't be bored.

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