Book Review: The Book of Names

Let’s get to it, shall we? It’s been a while since I’ve written a book review, as I’ve mentioned in an earlier post.

UK Hardcover  US Hardcover

I’ve just finished reading The Book of Names, a suspense thriller that infuses historical and religious influences as its main core, in just one day on Wednesday. At 320 pages only, the feat is doable, plus, with a tight, fast paced plot that’s fairly gripping, I was unable to resist putting the book down to go to sleep until I’ve finished the book.

The book is a collaboration between Jill Gregory and Karen Tintori, who are long-time friends and have also collaborated in other books under the pseudonym “Jillian Karr.” Gregory is fairly well-known for her well-researched historical novels set in the Old West such as Cold Night, Warm Stranger and Never Love a Cowboy while Tintori has written two non-fiction books, the latest of which is a biography on one her ancestors called Unto the Daughters. Now, I must say that I’ve not read any of Gregory’s or Tintori’s works before this, so I’ve no idea what they are like as solo authors but I must say that I quite enjoyed The Book of Names.

The book deals with the ancient Jewish mysticism of Kabbalah and Jewish tradition of the Lamed-Vovniks. According to Jewish legend, the world is in existence because of the Lamed-Vovniks, 36 righteous souls that must exist in every generation or the world will end. The names of these righteous souls are encoded in the Book of Names written by the First Man, Adam, that has now fallen in the hands of evil.

Throughout the ages, a mysterious sect of religious killers called the Gnoseous have systematically began to hunt down these righteous souls and kill them to bring about the end of the world and renewal of humankind, in their terms. Having killed 33 so far, they are closer than ever to achieving their aims, but are not aware of that they’ll face unlikely opposition.

Standing in their way is Georgetown University resident political scientist, Professor David Shepherd, who has suffered visions of mysterious names ever since he had a near death experience in his childhood. Seeking the help of his Catholic priest friend who referred him to a Jewish rabbi in Brooklyn, NY, he discovers that he holds the key to the survival of the world. Struggling between believing and disbelieving, the fight becomes personal for him when his ex-stepdaughter, whom he’ve gotten along so well, is discovered to be one of the three last surviving Lamed-Vovniks. Aided by a sultry Israeli artefacts expert, they must now race against time to stop the Gnoseous from bringing about the end of the world and rescuing his daughter from clutches of the evil sect and their Dark Angels (Gnostic assassins).

As I mentioned, this was a fast paced read, and the authors did well to blend in religion, history and fantasy into the story for a tense and suspenseful thriller. However, to call it one of the best is to give this book too much credit as it is not without its flaws, among which is their inability to decide on the correct spelling of “Kabbalah,” which was either spelled with a double ‘b’ or a double ‘l’ whenever it surfaced.

The story is also riddled with clichés (escaping via fire escape, typically incompetent or non-existent authorities despite all the carnage described in the book, the reluctant hero, evil religious organisation), poor characterisation (rather than characters drive the plot, the characters seemed to be there as dictated by the plot) and features lots of unlikely circumstances that defies logic (an enormous underground labyrinth under London escaping the notice of geologists??). One could not help but wonder if with a little bit more tinkering to some of the characters and adding more depth to the story would this turn out to be a better read than the plodding book that is the Da Vinci Code.

Yes, it’s fairly easier to read than Dan Brown’s debut novel, and one also could not help but draw parallels between the two. Both dealing against religious sects, both have a professor and a beautiful foreign female sidekick, both also have a character that intends to help the protagonist but ended up dead in the end and both also deals with religious myths. Which one is better, I would not say, but I did rather enjoy The Book of Names more.

Now, let me just cast the Shield Charm around me to avoid flaming arrows and countless bricks from Dan Brown fanatics. Protego!

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3 responses to “Book Review: The Book of Names

  1. Thank you for this review, I’ll be looking out for this one.

  2. It does have one hell of a killer title. 🙂

  3. Phillipp, you’ve been quiet in the blogosphere.

    I have an exciting contest at my blog. Check it out : http://lydiateh.wordpress.com/2008/09/23/contest-do-you-wear-suspenders/

    Thanks!

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