I had no idea, when I started writing THE TESTIMONIUM in March of 2012, whether or not I would even finish it. I certainly had no idea I would start another novel three months after wrapping it up in November of that year, or that it would be published less than two years later. But one thing led to another, which led to another . . . and now, in March of 2016, I put the finishing touches on my fifth novel in four years. Assuming my publisher accepts it, it will probably see print about two years from now, but I want to go ahead and tell you a little bit about it now, while the storyline is still fresh on my mind.
THE GNOSTIC LIBRARY is the third and perhaps final volume in my "Capri Team" series. For those of you who have not read any of my books, the "Capri Team" is my nickname for a group of archeologists - Joshua and Isabella Parker, Father Duncan MacDonald, an archeological consultant for the Vatican, and Dr. Luke Martens, as well as Luke's young wife Alicia - whom I created for my first novel, THE TESTIMONIUM. I fell in love with these characters, and after I finished my second book, a historical novel called THE REDEMPTION OF PONTIUS PILATE, I couldn't resist coming back and featuring them in another story, MATTHEW'S AUTOGRAPH, which was released last December.
Josh is an American, the son of a Baptist pastor, with a passion for archeology, particularly from the New Testament era. His wife Isabella, Italian by birth, is a specialist in classical archeology with an emphasis on the early Roman Empire. Duncan MacDonald is a papyrus specialist, who excels at stabilizing, reading, and translating ancient documents. A consultant for the Vatican's Department of Religious Antiquities, he has come to play a larger role in my stories as the team's adventures have unfolded. Luke Martens is Josh's thesis advisor and mentor, a Biblical archeologist specializing in the New Testament era. His wife Alicia, a good bit younger than him, is the odd one out in this group of antiquarians (for the first couple of stories, at least), working on her Master's Degree in Marine Biology. Finally, though, she decided that she would rather work with her husband than with dolphins, and switched majors to aquatic archeology.
In the first story, which gave the team its name, Isabella and her mentor Giuseppe Rossini discovered a hidden chamber on the Isle of Capri which contained a number of documents from the First Century, including the report that Pontius Pilate filed to Rome on the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. The intense publicity surrounding the discovery and translation of that scroll, known as the Testimonium of Pilate, made the members of the excavation team international celebrities, especially after they were targeted by a radical group of terrorists out to destroy the ancient document.
In MATTHEW'S AUTOGRAPH, Father MacDonald is working on a routine salvage archeology survey in Southern Israel when he and his colleague, Dr. Samuel bin Yosef, discover what appears to be the undisturbed tomb of the Apostle Matthew, including both his remains and a scroll of the last few chapters of Matthew's gospel. The Israeli government invites the members of the Capri Team to come and take part in the dig, and when the scroll is opened and translated, it proves to be a completely different ending than the one found in every other text of Matthew - an ending which casts doubt on the Resurrection of Jesus! As an impatient public, fueled by mysterious leaks of information from inside the lab, demands to know what the scroll says, Father MacDonald engages in a desperate search to find the truth about the cave, the scroll, and the circumstances under which it was buried.
After I finished this third book, I decided to write another historical novel, LOVER OF GOD, which I finished last fall and which will be available about a year from now. But the Capri Team was still there, in the back of my mind, and I wanted to send them on at least one more adventure before I was done with them. Oddly enough, although Josh is as close to a literary alter ego as any character I have ever created, the one member of the team who calls out to me most is Father Duncan MacDonald. I am a Baptist, and have profound theological differences with Catholicism - yet, at the same time, I also have an equally profound respect for the Church of Rome, and ultimately, I believe we are all on the same team, serving the same God. Duncan is a worthy servant of the Church, faithful enough to defend its practice and doctrine, honest enough to admit that his Protestant friends do have some valid points in the age-old debate. Now for the second time, it is Duncan who takes center stage in this story - a story that is, in some ways, darker than any novel I have ever written, but one which also lets the light of faith shine with great brightness in the darkest of places.
It begins with a discovery by a Bedouin on the edge of Egypt's Black Desert - a library of ancient scrolls, buried in the shifting sands of the desert for centuries. The Bedouin, Ibrahim al-Safar, has worked as a digger on many archeological sites in Egypt, and recognizes the significance of his find. He reports it to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, and the Museum's director, Abdullah al-Sharif, sends one of the resident scholars, English archeologist Dr. Katherine Feezel, to investigate. Doctor Feezel is one of the main characters in this story - tough as nails, brilliant, and beautiful, she has lived in Egypt for most of the last twenty years, working on sites all over the country. She realized the library was full of scrolls and codices written by Gnostic Christians, a splinter sect of the early church, and Duncan is called in to assist in the excavation, even as his friend Josh is investigating a separate archeological mystery in north Texas.
The library site lies in dangerous territory - an Egyptian variant of ISIS, known as the Army of Allah, has its headquarters nearby, and a team of foreign archeologists prove to be too appealing a target to pass up. Duncan and Katherine are taken prisoner by this gang of jihadists, and it will take all the skill and courage of the Egyptian military, as well as the resources and intelligence of the rest of the Capri Team, to locate and rescue them. Meanwhile, in captivity, Duncan will face the dilemma of trying to protect Katherine from some of the most evil barbarians on the planet - all the while wrestling with his own increasingly strong feelings for her. Their paths all converge to a fiery climax in the desert that you won't soon forget!
THE GNOSTIC LIBRARY is a rattling good tale of archeological discovery, theological controversy, radical terrorism, inhuman courage, and sacrificial love which I think all of you will greatly enjoy. But, if you haven't done so yet, you need to learn the Capri Team's story from the very beginning - which means you need to read THIS BOOK first: