The Last Sicarius by Van R. Mayhall Jr.

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Dr. Clotile Lejeune, an ancient languages expert, barely survived her encounter with the Kolektor, a billionaire arms merchant desperate to possess the ancient oil jar bequeathed to Cloe by her father. Now that the Kolektor has met his fate at the hands of the Sicarii—the shadowy successors to Judean revolutionaries and now guardians of the cave of jars—Cloe is busy translating the newly discovered and potentially earth-shaking journal of Christ’s public ministry. But when she is called to a personal audience with the pope, Cloe soon realizes her past has caught up with her once again.

With the fate of Christianity at risk, Pope Francis charges Cloe to find the cache of jars and keep them away from their adversaries. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the Kolektor’s criminal organization has been taken over by a ruthless man intent on stopping at nothing to find the cave of jars—and the Sicarii. Led by biblical clues, Cloe; her son, J.E.; and the monsignor, a mysterious Vatican operative, embark on a perilous journey to France, Jerusalem, and Tunisia, relentlessly pursued by the Kolektor’s replacement. Only time will tell who will find the cave of jars first.

In the exciting sequel to Judas the Apostle, Cloe and her friends race against time to find the ancient jars before Christianity is destroyed forever.

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Van R. Mayhall Jr is a Louisiana local. When he isn’t writing historical detective novels, Van practices corporate and business law in a Baton Rouge Law Firm where he is also a senior partner.   This is the second in a series of books.  I’ll just throw in a short disclaimer here. I have not read the first book of the series. Therefore, you may need pinches of salt and what not as you read this review.

This book has been compared to the famous Dan Brown books. I would say this is a good comparison; short chapters, historical/ religious themes, a glut of geographical locations. There’s also a lot of very convenient, not necessarily plausible, last-minute saves of the central characters.

I was disappointed with gender portrayal in this story. There are lots of bold, outdated stereotypes. While the central action revolves around Dr Lejeune, a woman with many academic accolades behind her, she is often paraded as an object. She is patronisingly protected by the men in her group despite her ability to look after herself quite well. She is used as a pawn in a hostage situation to which her own son belittling reacts to by saying “you are a lying, no-good lowlife. Stealing a woman – where’s the honor in that?”. Rude.

Furthermore, Dr Lejeune is swept up in pretty dresses and glittering lights and fancy hotel suites – this from a woman apparently in the midst of a life or death mission which has already claimed the lives of her father and her uncle and potentially her son. This behaviour doesn’t ring true with me. But y’know, she’s a woman so she MUST be easily distracted by pretty, material objects.

Everything is a little too convenient. They get trapped in a cave and an escape hole appears; their plane crashes into the sea and all the main characters conveniently survive; they need new clothes after the crash and somehow they find the money and the shops to buy them; they need Intel and gadgets to continue their mission and they just pick it up on the way to the airport. Where’s the drama and the struggle to survive? This is a very middle class “adventure”. Once I realised this, every time something “bad” happened I just didn’t care, because I knew that they’d be rescued immediately. There was no tension or fear. Think the opposite of Game of Thrones in which everyone dies the second you start to like them. In The Last Sicarius, almost everyone disappointingly survives.

Having said all that, The Last Sicarius isn’t a bad read. It doesn’t stretch your brain too much. This would be a good holiday read. Enough happens to keep you interested, but your life won’t end if it falls into the pool or gets misplaced in baggage collection.

Thank you to Stephanie at Stephsandy Consulting for sending me a copy of The Last Sicarius in exchange for an honest review.

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