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Shroud of Turin Conspiracy Tale Takes Readers on a Thrill Ride

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Shroud of Turin (AP)

By    |   Friday, 17 Mar 2017 08:34 PM

In "The Shroud Conspiracy," author John Heubusch – who serves in his day job as the executive director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation – carves out some incredibly ambitious territory.

Heubusch's debut thriller aims to blend an Indiana Jones thriller with a high conspiracy worthy of Dan Brown. As if that's not a lofty enough ambition, his novel revolves around arguably the most sacred relic in the world, the fabled Shroud of Turin.

Spinning out a pulse-pounding yarn centered on the ancient burial shroud that Christians believe bears the image of a crucified Jesus Christ is a sensitive undertaking. Yet Heubusch pulls it off with a poise that belies his status as a first-time novelist.

His main character is forensic anthropologist Jon Bondurant. The cynical Bondurant is an unapologetic atheist and ladies' man who has made a career of traveling the world to debunk supposed relics that turn out to be no more genuine than a snake-oil salesman's elixir. When the Vatican invites Bondurant to examine the famed Shroud of Turin, he naturally champs at the bit to impugn the faith of millions of Christians. Doing so, he imagines, will help him attain global celebrity – but a number of unexpected developments change his outlook rather profoundly.

First, he meets the pulchritudinous Domenika Josef, the devout Vatican representative tasked with facilitating his inspection of the Shroud. As they work together, these opposites gradually attract and come to the awkward realization that, despite the chasm that divides their rather conflicting worldviews, they seem to be falling in love.

Bondurant uses an extraordinary device he's pioneered to render the Shroud image in three dimensions. The result is a holographic view of Christ in the round that's as vivid as anyone could imagine.

The complications increase exponentially, however, when a mysterious third party enters the picture seeking to steal what may be a sample of Christ's blood. The cult's profane objective: To clone the Messiah some two millennia after his initial resurrection.

Apparently unwilling to wait on the Second Coming, they're determined to engineer it. The plot shifts from Mumbai to Turin to Rome to the United States to Belgium, all in the space of a few chapters.

You'd never know Heubusch is a first-time novelist based on the reception the book has received. New York Times best-selling author Brad Thor calls it "an absolutely brilliant thriller." Publisher and former GOP presidential candidate Steve Forbes brands it "an irresistible, action-packed thriller with enough absorbing and stunning twists and turns" to vault Heubusch into the pantheon of Thor, Brad Meltzer, and Dan Brown. And Gary Sinise, the Oscar-nominated actor and champion of armed services veterans, helped Heubusch kick off the book's promotional tour at an event at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley.

"It's an incredible first book," said Sinise. "I'm just amazed at your skill."

Heubusch says the idea for the book has been rattling around in his brain for decades. "I actually saw a documentary about the Shroud of Turin when I was 17 years old in a religion class in high school," he told the local media. "The fact that this shroud existed was just remarkable to me. I just remember at the time thinking, ‘If this is really real, it has to be the result of some miracle.' So I just put it in the back of my mind and many years went by.'"

Then after putting his children to bed one night, he retired to his study and began writing. Five hours later, he'd completed Chapter One. He says it only took about six months to finish his first draft.

His publisher, an imprint of Simon and Schuster is no doubt hoping the children continue to sleep soundly. The book's cliffhanger of an ending suggests a sequel could be at hand. Heubusch has apparently already written it -- a second book in the series is scheduled to debut next year.

For literary inspiration, all Heubusch needs to do is gaze at the captivating image that started it all.

"For me," he told audience members at the Reagan Library, "what happens is my eyes are always drawn to the face of the figure. When I stare at it, I stare at it for a long time, because it seems to be staring back at you in a way. If you believe that's the image of Christ himself, that's a pretty special moment.

"It reaches into your emotions and it's going to make you feel something, for sure."

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In "The Shroud Conspiracy," author John Heubusch – who serves in his day job as the executive director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation – carves out some incredibly ambitious territory.
shroud, turin, book, review
Friday, 17 Mar 2017 08:34 PM
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