Acts of the Assassins by Richard Beard
|Acts of the Assassins by Richard Beard|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A cult leader is executed, his body vanishes and then all the witnesses seem to be killed off, one by one. Gallio must find the body before they all die. The more you read the more you realise you've seen this before but never, never like this. A cracking thriller inspired by a source you'd least expect.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: March 2015|
|Publisher: Harvill Secker|
|External links: Author's website|
The rebellious cult leader is executed so that's that. Then someone steals the body. The police appoint Cassius Gallio to investigate but it all goes terribly wrong. He not only fails to find the body, the police informant from the initial conviction is killed in a way that mimics suicide. Gallio's career and life both stall until the case is secretly re-opened and he's deemed the man for the investigation as he's already comparatively invisible. It seems straightforward in that Gallio must uncover the truth but the people he needs to speak to are being culled one by one by the most innovative and bloodthirsty means.
British author Richard Beard has a fascinating website revealing him to be a deep, highly intelligent and reflective thinker. It's all interesting stuff, however if you're the type of reader who only wants to use the imagination part of their brain when reading fiction, please don’t be put off. The high concepts that Richard eloquently muses on have been translated into a really accessible, exciting crime thriller or two with a huge side-serving of originality.
For although The Acts of the Assassins (and its predecessor the equally wonderful Lazarus is Dead ) may be Bible influenced, this is a telling of the Easter story and its aftermath in a way that no one's ever told it before. Richard has turned it into a tale that's neither religious or irreligious, just downright entertaining and exciting. (Trust me – I'm a vicar's wife!)
To begin with he's brought it forward into our time but with an alternative present twist. The Roman Empire still rules across Europe, heavily enforced by the likes of Gallio, a member of the Speculators: the elite military police force that polices civilisation and shapes everyone's future for the best. The Sanhedrin (the council of Jewish religious leaders from the Bible) is also around, applying pressure for all this to be brought to a swift end so when our man is scapegoated by the department for the loss of Jesus's body, it's serious.
Our protagonists offer several theories as to where the body is (including a fascinating tie-in with Romulus, one of the mythical co-founders of Rome) but even with all the genetic testing and lab work available, nothing beats talking to those who surrounded the crucified missing guy before the execution, so the race is on.
Cassius Gallio himself makes a great centrepiece: washed up, marriage dead, forced to work with Baruch, the guy who has replaced him in so many ways. Oh yes, there is needle, there is travel as they follow their subjects all round the world and there is also a dark humour that becomes increasingly attractive, ambushing us and causing me to snigger out loud quite unexpectedly at one stage.
In fact move over Cecil B Demille and Charlton Heston; this is more The Wire than The New Testament. Seeing them up close and personal also makes us realise how bloody most of the apostles' deaths actually were. The biblical allusions are there while presented refreshingly differently. For instance the guys all die in manners fairly true to the original, yet including facets of the modern world and Saul of Tarsus still becomes Paul but his former life also creates a wonderfully authentic sounding theory that ties in well with Paul's writings.
Richard has been asked the obvious question about his faith or lack of it. He remains non-committal and rightly so in my opinion. This novel doesn't pander to or depend on a religion or lack of it, making the author's beliefs in this context immaterial. What a novel like this needs to carry it off is someone with knowhow, talent and a twisted method of looking at things (in a good way). After reading this I confirm that Mr Beard seems to have them all and I thank him for the resulting experience.
(A huge thank you to Harvill Secker for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If this appeals then Lazarus is Dead will definitely sate your reading If you’re already a fan but want more Easter-themed thrillers, we also recommend The Resurrection of the Body by Maggie Hamand.
You can read more book reviews or buy Acts of the Assassins by Richard Beard at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Acts of the Assassins by Richard Beard at Amazon.com.
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