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The Fifth Gospel

by Ian Caldwell

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5783128,746 (3.81)17
A lost gospel, a contentious relic, and a dying pope's final wish converge to send two brothers--both Vatican priests--on an intellectual quest to untangle Christianity's greatest historical mystery.



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» See also 17 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
This was a pretty fun who-done-it set in the midst of Vatican City. I liked the ending and I liked the characters. Caldwell has spun a really complex yarn here, full of interesting tidbits about the history of the Catholic church, its priests, the Vatican, and the theology of the New Testament Gospels.

And I do hope Caldwell continues to write. In the acknowledgements, he indicates this book took him 10 years to complete and, it appears, that took quite a toll on him and his family. I can't imagine what an author goes through to raise up a book from just an idea into a full-fledged novel. And because of that, I always find it difficult to say anything critical about a book. There were just a couple of things in this one that stuck in my craw and made it not quite a five-star story for me. Throughout the first several chapters, I couldn't help feeling that there was da-da-da-DUM music playing as each chapter ended, taking us to a cliff-hanger just before we cut to commercial. That eased up, but as the intrigue built it seemed a little too contrived. Most of the main characters -- Alex, the protagonist and Eastern Catholic priest; his uncle, the Cardinal highly placed in Vatican hierarchy; his buddy, head of the Swiss Guard within the Vatican; the lawyer (no spoiler here); and Pope John Paul -- have information that they do not share with each other. While it was necessary to the story that each of them not know what the others knew, else there would have been no mystery, I had trouble believing what little explanation Caldwell gave for why all of these people did not just tell each other the critical facts, as they ultimately do in the end.

( )
  Phyllis.Mann | Mar 18, 2020 |
This is the story of Sang Ly who live in the garbage dump in Stung Meanchey, Cambodia. They make their living by looking for recyclable material and selling it. They barely make enough money to stay alive. What makes matters worse is that they have a chronically ill child. It is hard to pay for a doctor, but even when they do take him, after a few days of medicine, his symptoms return.

Who Sang Ly and her husband fear the most is the rent collector. She is bad tempered and doesn't have time for excuses of people who cannot pay rent. Sang Ly knows they will be short of money because her husband was recently robbed, however, when the rent collector shows up at their house and sees a child's book that Sang Ly has found in the dump, she forgives their rent in return of getting to keep the book.

Soon - the story of Sang Ly - and her desire to learn to read - and the rent collector start to unfold. The rent collector agrees to teach Sang Ly to read and as they begin to spend time together, they learn about each other's past. What Sang Ly discovered about the rent collector, whom she comes to love and trust, teachers her about love, trust, and truth. And that everyone deserves a second chance.

This was a really great book. It isn't a long tale, so I was able to read it quickly. The book flows nicely and the writing is beautiful. The story of the hardship of living in the dump in Cambodia is hard to imagine. Learning to read opens up a whole world for Sang Ly, and in turn, will open a whole world for her son. She is hopeful that one day education and literature will help her son escape the hardship of the life in the dump.

The truth about the rent collector's past, and her story, is a heartbreaking one. And not one I will spoil in a review. You should not miss a chance to read this book. ( )
  JenMat | Jan 10, 2019 |
The real and the fictional are well blended in this mystery set in Vatican City during the last days of Pope John Paul II's life. Filled with details about Roman Catholics, Eastern Catholics, and Orthodox priests, this book is almost educational in what it discusses about the differences in religious beliefs, the Gospels, and Christian history. I loved the historical aspect and I'm tempted to now dig into research about early Gospels and the early Church and the Shroud of Turin to learn more about the topics this book touches on. Also, it's a pretty good mystery with complicated and subtle motivations that can challenge the reader. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | May 30, 2018 |
What an achievement by author Ian Caldwell. To write something that is entertaining from begining to end and also teach us about past history. I'll admit I was brought up Catholic so the religious aspects of the book made it that much more intriguing. I don't know how this book would read for somebody with no interest or background in Catholicism. I suspect that is why this books rating is not over four. It is compared to Dan Brown's work but far exceeds it. Certainly not light reading like Dan Brown. ( )
  Fearshop | Mar 31, 2018 |
Author Ian Caldwell spent over a decade on this book, and it was NOT a waste of time in any way whatsoever. A terrific read, especially for current or lapsed Catholics--Roman, Orthodox or Greek--who want a reminder of the rich history of the Church and the gospels that gets presented as part of a compelling larger story.

In this one, the main mystery surrounds the death--on the grounds of Castel Gandolfo--of the man who was preparing to open a Vatican exhibit on the Diatessaron, a real-life "fifth gospel" that was essentially a blend of the four gospels that we know today. Tied in with that is the Shroud of Turin and questions regarding its authenticity. While the story acknowledges the past radiocarbon dating of the shroud to the Middle Ages, it also offers an enticing what-if that is central to the overarching story, which also involves efforts to reunite the Eastern and Western branches of Catholicism--which in turn was something near and dear to John Paul II, whose life is nearing its end at the time of this story's setting.

Was the curator's death tied to the Diatessaron, the Shroud, or something else? Greek Catholic priest Alex is trying to find out as he also tries to save his brother, a Roman Catholic priest, at the same time. Among the many awesome components of this novel, the relationship between Alex and his son, Peter, is simply terrific, and Alex works hard to try to protect his young son even as he works hard to protect his brother, who has been accused of the murder and who doesn't seem to want the help. Alex is the real hero of the tale, but there is plenty to like in many of the other characters, as well, as this book has no shortage of things for me to rave about.

So for me, this one will join Thomas Gifford's THE ASSASSINI as a five-star read with a strong Catholic setting. It's interesting to note that both Gifford and Caldwell required over a decade to produce their respective books. I don't know if that means that research on the Church is just that time-consuming or if it means that it's easy to get sidetracked in the history of it all. But like Gifford, Caldwall has provided me with a well researched and deeply intricate novel that I will surely be reading again at some point. ( )
  jimgysin | Jun 19, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
"Caldwell (The Rule of Four, 2004) makes intriguing literature from complex theology, weaving in a text lost to history, the Shroud of Turin and Vatican duplicity."
added by bookfitz | editKirkus Reviews (Jan 15, 2015)
"An intelligent and deeply contemplative writing style, along with more than a few bombshell plot twists, set this one above the pack, but it’s the insightful character development that makes this redemptive story so moving."
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For Meredith. At last.
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My son is too young to understand forgiveness.
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