Bjørn Beltø returns in a new theological thriller by Tom Egeland, which offers the historical speculation we have come to expect, but where something is missing from the suspense.
NB! Because Tom Egeland himself has been a book reviewer at VG for many years, and we had an outside critic evaluating the book: Ola Hegdal who is a literary critic and regular book reviewer at NRK.
I know, Arose! Bjorn Belto is not yet dead, nor has he fully retired.
He returns now in what Tom Egeland is the ninth book in the series, in the genre he calls it alternately archaeological and theological thriller.
Can one call it an “atheist story”? As for Egeland’s treatment of biblical stories, it is disrespectful and deeply rooted in research and inquiry, a fruitful encounter between fiction and science.
Where an Indiana Jones archaeologist was reborn as a ruthless and charming man, Pelto represents the opposite, a shy and withdrawn albino with glasses, wandering from library to museum and back. Always with an unreachable pretty woman in mind, and with some kind of humiliating notch in the heel.
The Silver Coins deal with two of the last characters in the New Testament world that Egeland did not write about much, the villains in the story: Pontius Pilate and Judas Iscariot. Fantastic characters, of course, who, although they have marginal roles in the Gospels, stand out like the epic villains of the Christian fictional world.
A manuscript from the days of Jesus has been rediscovered, and it is nothing short of a letter from Pontius Pilate himself, which will shed new and shocking light on the history of the Bible. But before the contents of the letter were analyzed, it disappeared again, and the mysterious perpetrators stole it, leaving only a dead archivist.
Who else could find this priceless manuscript from Bjørn Beltø?
The chase puts our linguistic happiness on the trail of what was never – understandably – one of the most coveted for Christians, the Thirty Silver Pieces of Judah.
Along the way, Egeland has successfully unleashed an innovative and luxurious alternative explanation of why Judas betrayed Jesus.
The solution: he did not do.
Instead, we glimpse the outlines of a crafty plan, great sacrifice, and a classic change of identity. Here, believers may feel that England is approaching dangerously close to the sacred core of the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. But this is first and foremost an interesting mental game, and there is no reason to believe that the author is behind these explanations.
Bad guys are just around the corner
I think the historical and philosophical considerations are both creative and thought-provoking.
Pontius Pilate and Judas are such wonderful characters that they unwittingly end up as agents of evil in the greatest tales. Moderate critical religious tendency is not a problem to stand behind.
On the other hand, tension is mostly a confirmation.
Tom Egeland actually said goodbye to Beltø in 2018: – I’m done with Belto
Books, manuscripts, and archaeological excavations are not primarily the most nerve-racking material. Books about Pelto remain far from all supernatural threats such as spirits, demons and ghosts, as we know them from films about mummies and haunted tombs.
There are also limits to the number of times one can launch the Vatican, and there are also monastic orders as frightening as the enemy, although such an order actually appears in this book. The suspicious individuals who are stalking Peleto this time belong to an organization that is hardly troubled by the accusation of being behind the crime, because for them it is not just personal business.
Pelto would also discover a secret about his life, which although kind-hearted, was not particularly well integrated into the story.
So here’s a little bit of everything. The reunion with Belto is fun, and there is an escape of ideas and an alternate Bible story. But one may desire a plot that has been chopped up more convincingly.
Other than that, I just want to say that my aspiration in this life has always been to write a Tom Egeland review at least once without mentioning Dan Brown. I wasn’t too close to do that.
Reviewed by: Ola Hejdal
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