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On the shores of the Dead Sea some shepherd boys once noticed some caves. The clay jars inside contained one of the most important archeological discoveries of the 20th century, forever changing our understanding of Scripture. But what if one scroll, made from copper, held the secret to a treasure of biblical proportions? Or the trigger for Armageddon? People would kill for a secret like that. 

The Copper Scroll is real. It really does suggest that all the wealth of the second temple was hidden from the Romans somewhere in the desert sands. Thankfully, the murder that opens The Deadly Scrolls, the debut novel from Ellen Frankel, Ph.D., is fiction. Unearthed five years after the initial discovery in the Qumran caves, the Copper Scroll and all the mystery surrounding it are still a matter of interest and debate. Frankel takes her lifetime of ancient studies and uses it to unfurl a modern-day mystery of murder, espionage, feminism, and religious fanaticism. This isn’t your dad’s Da Vinci Code.

Struggling in the melting pot of Jerusalem, disgraced Israeli Intelligence Officer Maya Rimon is burning out. When she, a secular Jew, isn’t trying to keep the Jews, Christians, and Muslims that fill the city from killing each other, she’s trying to prevent herself from killing her ex-husband and the male superiors who doubt her abilities. Torn between devotion to her career and her little girl, Rimon is drowning in conflict. 

Now she’s competing with a former rival from the police force to solve the murder of an academic who believed he’d found the path to the hidden treasure. Along the way she finds connections to the case that got her in trouble last time and a potential romance with a sexually repressed modern orthodox Jewish scholar. If she doesn’t hurry, Christian extremists, led by a southern preacher who has changed his name to Pinkas Mashiak, will use the coming Blood Moon as an excuse to throw the world into holy war. 

One wonders if Frankel’s true opinion of religious people comes through when Rimon says, “They’re so desperate to be lifted up to Heaven that they’re willing to follow any pied piper who comes along. Then again, they’re no different from the Ultra-Orthodox … or the Jihadists. … When has the human race ever stopped hankering for redemption?” 

Suddenly this isn’t just a story about buried treasure, but something much deeper. It brings to mind the words of Jesus, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36). We neglect or pervert the words and work of Christ in exchange for anything else, and the consequences are eternal.

Reading The Deadly Scrolls is like visiting Jerusalem, or so I understand. Yet the world of the story is contrived in ways that frustrate. The history it tells is interesting. But as a novel with interesting characters or anything good to say about people of any faith, it’s no treasure. (Post Hill Press)


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