Pentecost by J. F. Penn

16 Apr

PentecostA power kept secret for 2000 years. A woman who stands to lose everything.

India. When a nun is burned alive on the sacred ghats of Varanasi, and the stone she carried is stolen, an international hunt is triggered for the relics of the early church.

Forged in the fire and blood of martyrs, the Pentecost stones have been handed down through generations of Keepers who kept their power and locations secret.

Until now.

The Keepers are being murdered, the stones stolen by those who would use them for evil in a world transformed by religious fundamentalism.

Oxford University psychologist Morgan Sierra is forced into the search when her sister and niece are held hostage. She is helped by Jake Timber from the mysterious ARKANE, a British government agency specializing in paranormal and religious experience. Morgan must risk her own life to save her family, but will she ultimately be betrayed?

From ancient Christian sites in Spain, Italy and Israel to the far reaches of Iran and Tunisia, Morgan and Jake must track down the stones through the myths of the early church in a race against time before a new Pentecost is summoned, this time powered by the fires of evil.

The first in the ARKANE series, PENTECOST is a fast-paced thriller that explores the edges of faith against a backdrop of early Christian history, archaeology and psychology.

I love anything with a historical twist, and Pentecost certainly doesn’t disappoint. I quite enjoy a thriller rooted in history, and find it as a genre to be more engaging than the police procedural type of thriller. This is a fast-paced story, and it incorporates many different settings as Morgan and Jake travel all over in search of the Pentecost stones. I have to admit I wondered if it was going to be a bit much, being dragged to many different places throughout the novel, but it was tackled brilliantly.

As someone who writes non-fiction — history, to be exact — as well as fiction, I can appreciate the amount of research that went into this book, and I’m so glad that Joanna shared some of this in the author’s notes at the end of the book. I love the combination of fiction and reality in this book, and found it entirely plausible that there could be twelve Pentecost stones.

I liked the characters a lot, and especially liked the way that Morgan Sierra was tough and intelligent, but also vulnerable and human. Her back story shows that she’s not perfect, and that makes her easier to relate to. I found that Jake Timber wasn’t fleshed out quite as much as I would have liked, but in some ways that’s a good thing. I like to have something left to my imagination, and to be honest, as a reader I find there’s nothing worse than having everything spelled out for me.

Also — and without wanting to give anything specific away — I found the villain to be an extremely interesting character. Don’t get me wrong — he was intensely creepy and disturbing, but he also had a vulnerable side. What’s more, he wasn’t acting out of greed or a simple desire to be evil. His underlying motivation was one that we could all relate to (even if we wouldn’t go to such extreme lengths!).

I would recommend this for anyone who likes a fast-paced read. I think this novel would appeal widely, to men and women, and young and old alike. And now, I’m off to start on the second ARKANE novel, Prophecy!

(Free review copy received.)

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