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The Fifth Gospel    by Ian Caldwell order for
Fifth Gospel
by Ian Caldwell
Order:  USA  Can
Simon & Schuster, 2015 (2015)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

The Fifth Gospel is a big work, wonderfully written, researched and extremely well plotted. Author Ian Caldwell says it took him ten years to write it, and this is completely to our benefit. The picture of the Vatican it gives is precise down to the very last detail. There is a lot of parsing of the Gospels, but people who are not that familiar with the Bible are not going to be lost. Caldwell catches us up with everything right when we need to know it. The best part is learning about the politics inside the Vatican and how position power means everything.

Two brothers are priests. Simon is a Roman Catholic, and Alex is a Greek or Eastern Catholic. They are both helping a curator who is mounting a very unusual and important exhibit at the Vatican. The exhibit is so important that prelates from the Orthodox Church, long separated from the Roman Catholics, have been invited as well. When the curator is murdered, suspicion falls on the brothers. Even before Simon is taken away for questioning, Alex knows it is up to him to find a way to exonerate his brother. Things get complicated when it looks like there is a sinister plot to keep him from doing this.

While we follow Alex as he works every clue, we become aware of some very important themes that are developed throughout: guilt and forgiveness. 'The darkest mistakes can be forgiven, but they can never be undone.' In light of this, I found the ending to be a bit miraculous, but it is quite effective. Aside from that, the story, written from Alex's point of view, unfolds steadily, and we are treated to a beautiful character study of people who live in a city usually undiscovered by outsiders.

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