Back on the job after having a baby, journalist Alessandra Russo is juggling her schedule with the needs of her infant son and struggling to find a noteworthy incident to report on when a major story falls right into her lap.
In the middle of a busy work day, Russo’s best friend, Roy, a gay firefighter who had a rough upbringing, phones her with some big news. Roy’s father, a mean old cuss who never accepted and didn’t approve of his son’s sexual orientation, died. Roy’s elated, while Russo is terrified he finally snapped and killed the old man. After finally getting her friend to promise that he didn’t, in fact, murder his dad, Russo is in a hurry to get off the phone and back to work when Roy suddenly hands her the big story she’s been looking for.
Roy’s dad, a former bank manager, confessed on his deathbed to taking something very valuable from a safe-deposit box in Long Island. According to the old man, what he swiped was actually an ancient religious document that was found in the 1970s before disappearing again three decades later. Known as the Gospel of Judas, Roy’s father claims to have the missing pages that explain the secrets to Jesus’ resurrection, among other things.
Before cluing Roy in on where to find the container that holds the documents, his dying father did issue a few warnings. Mainly, that the documents have the power to either change the way Christians view the bible forever or, should the ancient text fall into the wrong hands, could lead to someone having the power to unleash Armageddon.
On the bright side, at least for Roy, the documents are said to be worth ten million dollars, but only if they can figure out how to open the container and verify the authenticity of the contents.
With the backing of her editors, Russo chases the story of a lifetime–ramping up her intensity when Roy is arrested on the assumption that he killed his father, who was first thought to have died from natural causes. Desperate to help her friend, Russo heads to Israel to meet with an expert, but is forced to leave her baby with her elderly neighbors for twenty-four hours until her parents can travel to New York and look after their grandson.
As a number of weird things begin to happen to Russo and those around her, her life quickly spirals out of control–is it because of the documents, which she’s in possession of after Roy tasked her with protecting them? She intends to find out and see the story through, but each step forward is followed by two steps back, and then, just when Russo thinks she’s seen it all, a mysterious person from her past comes rocketing back into the present.
As shock waves rock Russo’s personal and professional life, her mission stays the same but her motives suddenly change. Things become intimately personal, and the fearless Russo will stop at nothing to learn the truth–no matter what.
Linda Stasi, a well-known columnist for the New York Daily News, is at the top of her game with this one. While the story is thoroughly engrossing, Stasi’s dialogue and character development, both of which are on point, is the book’s strength. Russo’s witty comebacks and sarcastic retorts match her unrelenting drive to learn the truth. Stasi could literally write four hundred pages of dialogue and it’d be better than two-thirds of the thrillers out there. She’s that good.
While this is the second book in the series, following 2013’s The Sixth Station, it reads very much like a standalone novel. The plot, which moves at a brisk clip and is packed with suspense, reads like a cross between Dan Brown’s The Davinci Code and one of James Rollins’ Sigma Force books. Toss in some well-written Steve Berry-like historical research and you’ve got Stasi’s Book of Judas, an absolute must-read for religious thriller fans.
Author: Linda Stasi
Series: Alessandra Russo #2
Pages: 484 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Forge Books
Release Date: September 19, 2017
Book Spy Rating: 7.5/10