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The Testament    by Eric Van Lustbader order for
by Eric Van Lustbader
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2007 (2006)
Hardcover, Paperback, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

While Eric Van Lustbader's The Testament (the title taken from a secret Testament of Jesus Christ) is yet another Da Vinci Code spin-off, it's one of the better ones - at least in its delivery of continual action and narrow escapes for both hero and heroine, and the creation of suspicion and tension between them. As always, they're on a quest to save the world and keep a big secret, while on the run from supervillains with seemingly infinite resources at their disposal.

Braverman 'Bravo' Shaw, once a medieval scholar, has been working for his best friend, Jordan Muhlmann, the President of multinational Lusignan et Cie. Called back to New York by his father Dexter for an annual family reunion, Bravo puts off his dad's request for a tête-à-tête, something he soon regrets. When Bravo arrives at the family brownstone, it blows up in his face, killing his father and blinding his sister Emma. Devastated and angry, Bravo sets out on a trail of riddles that his father has left for him, closely followed by Knights of St. Clement, who have opposed the Order of the Gnostic Observatines (of which Dexter was a leader) for centuries.

In Washington, Bravo tracks down Jenny Logan, whose first words are, 'What took you so long?' Jenny is a Guardian assigned to defend Bravo. She tells him of the role that the Gnostic Observatines have played through history as a secret society that has gathered secrets, using them to influence leaders and events at key moments. She informs him that the next few weeks are also pivotal as the Pope is dying, the Vatican is in chaos and - with the aid of a high-ranked traitor - the Knights are making an all-out attack on the Gnostic Observatines, killing their leaders, and seeking out their cache of secrets and something called The Quintessence (to which Bravo is now the key).

Bravo and Jenny embark on a gory rollercoaster ride of continual attacks (though the bad guys seem confused as to whether they want to take Bravo alive to extract his knowledge, or simply to kill him), violence and betrayals. Though the identity of the main villains is apparent to the reader early on, Bravo is surprisingly oblivious - even when he learns who one is, he continues to trust another whom it would be obvious to suspect. That aside, if you suspend disbelief, it's great fun to go along for the wild and woolly international ride that The Testament takes readers on.

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