Monday, February 23, 2015

Judas the Apostle, by Van R. Mayhall

iUniverse, ISBN 9781475931556, August 2012

Dr. Clotile Lejeune, scholar of ancient languages, and her son J.E., return from Seattle to her hometown of Madisonville, Louisiana, after the murder of her estranged father. Thib's death appears to be the the result of a break-in, and he managed to shoot the intruder when the intruder shot him. But the police can't identify the dead intruder, and it's not immediately obvious what he was after.

Things get stranger when Clotile, J.E., and Thib's parish priest, Father Aloysius, attend the reading of Thib's will. The house has been left to the parish, to support charitable work, except that Clotile is to take any items she wants from the house first. The one specific bequest to Clotile is an ancient oil jar, that Thib found in a cave in Tunisia during World War II. He's left a letter telling her the story of the jar--and it quickly becomes clear that the jar is what the intruder was after. He didn't find it and clear out before Thib awoke and they had their fatal encounter, because Thib had become alarmed by an attempt to buy the jar from it and moved it to the church for safekeeping.

And he wanted Clotile, whose career he had followed, to find out the secrets of this jar bearing the name of Judas Iscariot, in Greek.

Of course Clotile accepts the challenge. And of course, despite the murder of her father, she has only the dimmest idea of just how dangerous this will become.

This is a very solid thriller built around an intellectual puzzle, some speculative history, and smart, strong, complex characters, including a nicely challenging and evil villain.

Recommended.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.