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No Greater Sacrifice by John C. Stipa

No Greater Sacrifice

by John C. Stipa

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When Renee d' Arcadia, archaeologist learns that she is terminally ill, she decides it's time to take any chances she can get. Grasping at straws, she starts a quest to learn the secrets of the legendary Eleusinian Mysteries, a purification rite that might just provide her with the lifeline she needs. Never did she think that a trip to Greece would place her at the center of a dangerous plot, or bring her closer to sexy David Arturo.

Part adventure, part rollicking romance, and part ancient history lesson, Stipa's novel is a sort of Da Vinci Code meets Indiana Jones with a dash of mysticism.

I don't read much in the adventure/thriller genre, but when I do, I like to be absorbed by the story. This was a quick-paced and engaging read. I especially appreciated that Renee was not the sort of damsel-in-distress female sidekick that is so often introduced in such novels, but a strong, determined woman capable to getting herself in and out of scrapes. ( )
  emperatrix | Dec 6, 2010 |
No Greater Sacrifice is a cross between Indiana Jones and The Da Vinci Code (or at least these are two of the more prominent titles that is close to his work/influence). If you’re a Dan Brown lover, you’ll love this book. But at the same time, it is in no way comparable, because the concept is unique and there was so much more involved than just mystery. I took a long time to read this because I was so absorbed into solving the mystery behind Sauniére’s secret myself – I was that intensely involved in the novel!

By default, you’d expect plot twists and jaw-dropping action unfolding, but John did it in a way that caught me so off-guard. Sometimes, he’d even do it relatively bluntly and you’d be left screaming, “What?!” at the page. The pacing of the novel was fast-paced most of the time. There were slow moments where Renée and David would debate back and forth, throwing ideas at each other, but after they’d reach a conclusion, the pace would pick up again in action-packed adventure.

I didn’t expect John to be writing about dealing with deeper issues – I really only suspected mystery and adventure. So when other issues came up, like death, betrayal, incest, insecurities, conspiracy, not living up to expectations, and cancer, I was mildly pleased! I loved how these issues were incorporated in the story, yet it never took hold of the story – we could still read about depressing issues without it transforming into a novel about cancer.

The characters were extremely realistic and were very easy to connect with. There’s Renée, who is an archeologist and was always pushed hard by her father. She’s fierce, assertive, stubborn, resilient, and will never say no to an adventure. She’s battling with leukemia and her imminent death from it looms over most of the actions she takes, and she’s more reckless because of it. Then there is David, an ex-army man turned college professor who has inner demons and insecurities. He’s chivalrous, humorous, and so-darn-cute sometimes!

The romance in the novel (because yes, there’s romance, as well!) was outstanding. It was executed in such a way that it didn’t take the spotlight away from the original plot. Of course, it was still present and sometimes entire chapters were devoted to the romance, but ultimately, everything would come back to the mission. And wow, John wrote some romance scenes like a woman! That is not an insult – it’s a huge compliment. The romantic elements were tender, yet steamy; subtle, yet intense. I suppose I just assumed a man couldn’t write passages that radiated with such warmth and love... until I read this book.

The amount of work and research that went into this novel was amazing. There was so much detail of archaeology, mythology, religion, famous landmarks – it was easily overwhelming. I could practically see all the hard work and sweat that went into developing this novel. I have to give John mad props for weaving this tale and connecting all the dots so seamlessly that they made sense (to an otherwise slow person who can’t make connections, like myself!). The man is ingenious for all the debates and clue-work he did!

My only complaints are that John doesn’t name what foods are in the book – they sounded so delicious! I was ready to go out and order half of the things that were mentioned in the novel, but I didn’t have names to go with the delectable foods he was describing! I also didn’t like the alternating point of views within the same paragraph, but you get accustomed to it after the first 50 or so pages. Very, very small dislikes compared to an otherwise amazing novel. ( )
  Frazzletastic | Nov 6, 2010 |
Article first published as No Greater Sacrifice By John C. Stipa on Blogcritics

An unexpected summoning to France for the reading of a will draws together a strangely damaged group of individuals. Renee d’ Arcadia an archaeologist, recently diagnosed with terminal leukemia, David Arturo a war veteran with a troubled past, Paul Meehutch an extremely large, overweight man with a chip on his shoulder, but full of knowledge, and Gerard Tremblay assistant curator of the church where the reading is to take place, elderly and yet strangely spry.

This is just the beginning of a journey that will send them into the past, and involve them in a 100-year-old mystery resulting in the death of Father Berenger Sauniere, the parish priest of the Rennes-le-Chateau.

It will take all their wits and experience as well the hidden clues only hinted at in different works of literature, to find the truth. They must race against the clock to find the answers before a sinister group of individuals bent on evil and the destruction of the church, discover them. Gerard Tremblay has many of the answers and as he begins to fill them in, he too is brutally murdered. With danger and death at every turn will they find the answers in time?

What they find in each other will give them the strength to overcome evil and find the truth of the murder at the Rennes-le-Chateau.

"No Greater Sacrifice" is an intriguing book that is full of depth and extremely captivating. I am generally a quick reader, but because there was such an array of beautiful and interesting places and things, I took my time and savored the story. The characters were flawed and yet dynamic, demanding your pity or anger at times, and yet drawing your admiration in situation after situation. The interaction between them is funny and down to earth, displaying a real and human face that makes you miss them when they are gone.

Even with the immense amount of background surrounding the story, it was easy to follow. The clues were ingenuous and created a kind of “Indiana Jones” feel, with our friends ducking and dodging the dangers as they manifested.

John C. Stipa has created a fiction that makes you laugh and makes you cry; it is full of ugliness and beauty, and at every turn of the page, anticipation builds. There is a ribbon of hope weaved throughout the story, so while it is sometimes a bit dark, the hope ads a lightness that keeps the evil, which also twists its way though the story, at bay.

This is a great story and I would recommend it to anyone who loves mysteries, romance and danger. John C. Stipa has created it all and set a pace that keeps you moving. This is a book quite reminiscent of the Da Vinci Code in the complexity of it’s theme.

This would be a great book for a book club or reading group. It is definitely one for your library, to be read and savored periodically when you are looking for a story full of hope.

This book was received free from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material. ( )
  wrighton-time | Oct 4, 2010 |
Excellent read I didn't want to put down or to finish because finishing means the end of a fabulous story. The daring and adventure were awesome in this new book by budding artist, John Stipa! I hope Mr. Stipa will grace us with many more fantastic reads in the near future. Such talent deserves to be nourished and grown.
I liked that Renee' was a female archaeologist ready to tackle the unknown. I was not fond of her macho side, but it was great that she could defend herself in a bad situation. I thought David could have been a bit stronger, but he was still charming.
This is a book that takes your imagination on a wild ride! ( )
  ShawneeB | Jun 25, 2010 |
This first novel by Mr. Stipa takes the reader on a “Indiana Jones meets Angels and Demons” journey. Archaeologist Renee d'Arcadia is on a quest to find pieces of an apparently ancient puzzle and solve the mystery. She is summoned to Rennes-le-Chateau to receive an inheritance, and there makes an uneasy alliance with David Arturo and Paul Meehutch, who join her quest. And, as in any good mystery, there are bad guys behind every bush.

For me, the book had both pros and cons. On the con side, I thought some things happened or were figured out too easily and too quickly, the coincidences a little too convenient. Occasionally, the story seemed a bit repetitious and drawn out, even that that seems to contradict what I just said.

On the pro side, I loved the storyline and really enjoyed the character development. Paul, I really didn't see that one coming (chapter 45). The prologue, taking place at the church at Rennes-le-Chateau almost a century earlier, is very intriguing and made me want to know more. While this story is fiction, I appreciated the inclusion of real places and information about those places. The illustrations were fun, and I would have enjoyed even more of them.

Thank you to Mr. Stipa for providing a copy of his novel. I will certainly read more of his work. ( )
  TooBusyReading | Jun 13, 2010 |
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When archaeologist Renée d'Arcadia is summoned to France for the reading of a will, she is plunged into a maelstrom of deceit and destruction. Her challenge: solve a 100-year-old mystery originating from a sinister church where nothing is as it seems. Renée joins forces with David Arturo, an ex-helicopter pilot with a troubled past, to interpret clues cleverly hidden in tombstones and classic works of literature to find artifacts scattered across Europe. Racing against time, Renée and David must overcome their inner demons to outmaneuver a network of evil bent on destroying them. What they find in each other just might provide answers to some of mankind's oldest myths.
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