“Madness of the Q”
Author: Gray Basnight
Publisher: Down & Out Books
Satisfying Thriller Based on Discovery of Papyrus Fragments
In 2015 Gray Basnight published “Shadows in the Fire,” his novel set during the last days of the siege of Richmond during the Civil War. Basnight, a native of Richmond, did a good job with that novel of the past, using a 12-year-old enslaved girl as protagonist and making use of an historically odd but true anecdote—the visit to Richmond by Lincoln even as the city was still burning.
Since then, he published a thriller, “Flight of the Fox,” with genius mathematics professor Sam Teagarden as hero. Teagarden investigated the conspiracy theories concerning the killings of Dr. King and both Kennedys and solved the mysteries.
Now Professor Teagarden is back.
At first, I was leery of “Madness of the Q.” It seemed too imitative of “The DaVinci Code.” There is a strong religious element and a lot of international travel, and there has certainly been enough of that.
But somewhat to my surprise, I was soon won over and read eagerly through this thriller, set in the near future, 2025.
Basnight’s premise is a variation on a familiar one: what if the body of Jesus were discovered somewhere? Think of the consequences for the Christian faith.
Beneath the church of Megiddo in Israel, Spanish archaeologist/scholar Pablo Zuberon has unearthed a document written in the first century. There are 17 papyrus fragments, all in Greek, the last four of which are encoded.
Zuberon has translated and decoded them and the results could be explosive. The document, known as Q for quelle, “source” in German, may be the source for the gospels of Mathew and Luke.
In the first chapter, Professor Zuberon is assassinated to keep the contents of the document from being disseminated, but he has already sent his findings to several colleagues around the globe.
No one knows for sure what is in the Q.
If the documents reveal, as some fear, that the divinity of Jesus was a hoax perpetrated by Saul of Tarsus, that is, St. Paul, to inspire the Jewish independence movement and resist Roman authority, the faithful will be shocked beyond measure.
And in the next few days, as THAT rumor spreads, the faithful in Spain, Mexico, and West Virginia begin committing mass suicide by slashing their own throats, taking poison and, in West Virginia, allowing themselves to be bitten by poisonous snakes. Altogether, 1,042 are dead in eleven incidents in 7 countries.
The idea here is that, with faith lost, all is lost, and there is no reason to keep on living.
Sam Teagarden is recruited by the FBI to look into this mess and soon discovers, to his surprise, that not only has the Vatican hired an assassin to kill him, another international organization called FFG, Freedom From God, is also out to kill him. They fear the Q document might validate the divinity of Jesus and they certainly don’t want that. The FFG believe that most of the pain and suffering, war and hardship in the world has come from religion, all religions and they are working to eliminate them.
Teagarden is attacked in NYC and barely escapes with his life in the catacombs under the church of Megidda (which means Armageddon). He has a James Bond-like adventure aboard a cruise ship between Haifa and Venice, including a wonderful scene at the casino roulette wheel, and deals with various dangerous females, some out to kill him, some not.
This novel, surprisingly, has freshness, pace, an ironic take on the international spy hero. It is, as they say, a good read.
Don Noble’s newest book is Alabama Noir, a collection of original stories by Winston Groom, Ace Atkins, Carolyn Haines, Brad Watson, and eleven other Alabama authors.