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The Constantine Codex, by Paul L. Maier

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The Constantine CodexCharming, intriguing, colourful and action-packed. 

I enjoyed The Constantine Codex (affiliate link) for many little reasons, and a few big reasons too. Let me summarize the highlights:

Mr. Maier wrote a charming story about a husband and wife team who specialize in archaeology and ancient manuscripts.

Their discovery of a clue about the Constantine Codex leads them into a whirlwind adventure and all the while this couple’s relationship, much like the story’s overall tone, stays charming all the way through.

Meteora, Greece

The plot highlights an intriguing idea: What if a book of the Bible was lost and has yet to be found? Mr. Maier explores this idea as he sends the main characters around the world in search of ancient overlooked Scriptural manuscripts.

Which brings me to the novel’s colourful scenes and settings. From an unprecedented, possibly life-threatening religious debate to the stunning countries visited by Maier’s protagonists, this novel never ceases to bring colourful images to the reader’s mind. Check out the pictures of these places appearing in the book.

Throne room at the
Ecumenical Patriarchate of
Constantinople
, Istanbul

And lastly, Maier’s plot is action-packed, barely slowing down along the way. He weaves narrative, dialogue and action together well, which is the key to keep a novel moving.

There were a few aspects of the writing I’d suggest to change. Some of the dialogue comes across as if it were being written rather than spoken, making it seem a little unrealistic at times.

Meanwhile, the tender moments between husband and wife lean towards the cheesy side, although still very sweet, and a few of their discoveries seem a little too coincidental. No big deal, though.

The most well-developed character is the protagonist. His wife, who’s also a main character, seems like a carbon copy of husband’s character, personality, speech and quirks (except for her fear of heights). Even Caesar’s speech in the codex sounds like it’s being spoken by the main character. In short, too many cast members sound like copies of the protagonist.

Inside the church building at
Great Lavra monastery,
Mount Athos, Greece

It seems important to point these things out, in case the author finds them helpful feedback for writing future stories. I don’t want to seem critical, though, because of how much I enjoyed the story and how tender and kind the author seems to be. His personality certainly came through the story loud and clear, which was a delight to discover.

So let me end on a high note: Besides the adventure, mystery and colourful settings, Maier also tackles an extremely sensitive issue, namely that of religion and violent extremism. He’s gentle in carving out a thoughtful place where Christian readers may think about different angles on this issue and he uses the story to highlight the fact that every religion has its extremists, moderates and liberals. His perspective seems wise and balanced and I don’t think he could’ve done a better job of conveying his beliefs on this issue. A job well done.

Readers: Whether you enjoy Biblical history and archaeology, or exciting stories that lead you through interesting puzzles and places, you’ll enjoy The Constantine Codex.

And don’t miss Maier’s post: The story behind the Constantine Codex

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Tyndale House Publishers and LitFuse Publicity.

3

Before I Wake by Dee Henderson

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FBI agent, Rae Gabriella, needs a career change. Her last undercover investigation ended disastrously, shaking her confidence in herself and in God. Moving to small-town Illinois, Rae joins her ex-boyfriend, Bruce, in his business as a private investigator, hoping the slower pace of life will provide the shelter and healing she needs. However, a major strike at the town’s tile plant and the murder of an out-of-town reporter give Rae, Bruce and Sheriff Nathan Justice a more dangerous and perplexing challenge than any of them expect.

This is a great plot. It started a little slow, but I was hooked by chapter two, and shortly thereafter the suspense kept the book glued to my hands. I couldn’t wait to know what clues (or bodies) would turn up next. Dee Henderson also opened my eyes to the politics of labour negotiations, the cutthroat business of illicit drugs, and the thankless job of fighting crime. I was a fascinated student from beginning to end.

They say conflict keeps a story moving, but it was Rae, Bruce and Nathan’s gentle friendships, with relaxed dialogue and realistically-paced personal growth, that drew me in. Dee fashioned the characters as normal people with challenging relationships, troubled pasts, and tough questions about God, making the story reminiscent of real life without feeling mundane.

Some of the book’s spiritual questions are left open, allowing readers to pursue their own answers about God’s sovereignty in the midst of tragic circumstances. Some questions are too complex to ask and answer in a single book, and I’m grateful when Christian fiction acknowledges this.

The only point on which I’m left wanting is the romantic tension between Rae and the two men. Attraction is clearly alluded to throughout the novel, but the characters seem slightly too passive and the story-telling feels too ambiguous on this dimension. I also wonder why Nathan’s parents aren’t more involved in the conflict between him and his grandfather, but that’s a minor point. Overall, I felt inspired by the characters’ relationships.

Some people like ratings, so I’ll give Before I Wake a solid 4 out of 5, and I gladly recommend it.

Note: This review is not part of a blog review program.

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