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On Sale: December 26, 2006
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud is the explosive international bestseller that mixes fact and fiction to tell the riveting story of one of the world’s most controversial relics—the Holy Shroud of Turin—and the desperate race to save it from those who will stop at nothing to possess its legendary power....

A fire at the Turin cathedral and the discovery of a mutilated corpse are the latest in a disturbing series of events surrounding the mysterious cloth millions believe to be the authentic burial shroud of Jesus Christ. Those who dare to investigate will be caught in the cross fire of an ancient conflict forged by mortal sacrifice, assassination, and secret societies tied to the shadowy Knights Templar.

Spanning centuries and continents, from the storm-rent skies over Calvary, through the intrigue and treachery of Byzantium and the Crusades, to the modern-day citadels of Istanbul, New York, London, Paris, and Rome, The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud races to a chilling climax in the labyrinths beneath Turin, where astounding truths will be exposed: about the history of a faith, the passions of man, and proof of the most powerful miracle of all….


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

Chapter One




C. 30 A.D.


Abgar, king of Edessa,
to Jesus the good Savior, who appears at Jerusalem,
greetings–
I have been informed concerning you and the cures you perform without the use of medicines and herbs.
For it is reported that you cause the blind to see and the lame to walk, that you cleanse lepers, cast out unclean spirits and devils, and restore to health those who have been long diseased, and, further, that you raise up the dead.
All of which, when I heard, persuaded me of one of these two: either that you are God Himself descended from heaven who does these things, or you are the Son of God.
On this account, therefore, I write to you earnestly, to beg that you take the trouble of a journey hither and cure a disease which I am under.
For I hear the Jews ridicule you and intend you mischief.
My city is indeed small, but neat, and large enough for us both.




The king laid down his pen and turned his eyes toward a young man of his own age, waiting motionless and respectful at the far end of the room.

"You are certain, Josar?" The king's gaze was direct and piercing.

"My lord, believe me. . . ." The young man could barely hold himself back as he spoke. He approached the king and stopped near the table at which Abgar had been writing.

"I believe you, Josar, I believe you. You are the most faithful friend I have, and so you have been since we were boys. You have never failed me, Josar, but the wonders that are told of this Jew are so passing strange that I fear your desire to aid me may have confounded your senses."

"My lord, you must believe me, for only those who believe in the Jew are saved. I have seen a blind man, when Jesus brushed his fingers over the man's dead eyes, recover his sight. I have seen a lame man, whose legs would not move, touch the hem of Jesus' tunic and have seen Jesus gaze sweetly upon him and bid him walk, and to the astonishment of all, the man stood and his legs bore him as your legs, sire, bear you. I have seen a poor woman suffering from leprosy watch the Nazarene as she hid in the shadows of the street, for all men fled her, and Jesus approached her and said to her, 'You are cured,' and the woman, incredulous, cried, 'I am healed, I am healed!' For indeed her face became that of a human once more, and her hands, which before she hid from sight, were whole.

"And I have seen with my own eyes the greatest of all miracles, for when I was following Jesus and his disciples and we came upon a family mourning the death of a relative, Jesus entered the house and commanded the dead man to rise. God must be in the voice of the Nazarene, for I swear to you, my king, that the man opened his eyes, and stood, and wondered at being alive. . . ."

"You are right, Josar, I must believe if I am to be healed. I want to believe in this Jesus of Nazareth, who is truly the Son of God if he can raise the dead. But will he want to heal a king who has been prey to concupiscence?"

"Abgar, Jesus cures not only men's bodies but also their souls. He preaches that with repentance and the desire to lead a life free thenceforth of sin, a man may merit the forgiveness of God. Sinners find solace in the Nazarene, my sire. . . ."

"I do sincerely hope so, Josar, although I cannot forgive myself for my lust for Ania. The woman has brought this plight upon me; she has sickened me in body and in soul."

"How were you to know, sire, that she was diseased, that the gift sent you by King Tyrus was a stratagem of state? How were you to suspect that she bore the seed of the illness and would contaminate you? Ania was the most beautiful woman we had ever seen. Any man would have lost his reason and given his all to have her."

"But I am king, Josar, and I should not have lost my reason, however beautiful the dancing girl may have been. . . . Now she weeps over her lost beauty, for the marks of the disease are upon her face, and the whiteness is eating it away. And I, Josar, have a sweat upon me that never leaves me, and my sight grows cloudy, and I fear above all things that the illness will consume my skin and leave me–"

Abgar fell silent at the sound of soft footsteps. A smiling woman, lithe, with black hair and olive skin, entered.

Josar admired her. Yes, he admired the perfection of her features and the happy smile she always wore; beyond that he admired her loyalty to the king and the fact that her lips would never have uttered the slightest reproach against the man stolen from her by Ania, the dancing girl from the Caucasus, the woman who had contaminated her husband the king with the terrible disease.

Abgar would not allow himself to be touched by anyone, since he feared he might pollute all those with whom he came in contact. He appeared less and less frequently in public. But he had not been able to resist the iron will of the queen, who insisted upon caring for him personally and, not just that, who also encouraged him in his soul to believe the story brought by Josar of the wonders performed by the Nazarene.

The king looked at her with sadness in his eyes.

"It is you, my dear. . . . I was talking with Josar about the Nazarene. He will take a letter to him inviting him to come. I have offered to share my kingdom with him."

"An escort should accompany Josar, to ensure that nothing happens on the journey and to ensure also that he returns safely with the Nazarene."

"I will take three or four men; that will be enough," Josar said. "The Romans have no trust in their subjects and would not look with favor on a group of soldiers entering the town. Nor would Jesus. I hope, my lady, to complete my mission and convince Jesus to return with me. I will take swift horses and will send you and my lord the news when I reach Jerusalem."

"I shall complete the letter, Josar."

"And I shall leave at dawn, my lord."




Chapter Two




The fire began to lick at the pews as smoke filled the nave with darkness. Four figures dressed in black hurried toward a lateral chapel. A fifth man, humbly dressed, hovering in a doorway near the high altar, wrung his hands. The high wail of sirens reached a crescendo outside–fire trucks responding to the alarm. In a matter of seconds firefighters would burst into the cathedral, and that meant another failure.

The man rushed down from the altar, motioning his brothers to come to him. One of them kept running toward the chapel, while the others shrank back from the fire that was beginning to surround them. Time had run out. The fire had come out of nowhere and progressed faster than they'd calculated. The man trying so desperately to fulfill their mission was enveloped in flames. He writhed as the fire consumed his clothes, his skin, but somehow he found the strength to pull off the hood that concealed his face. The others tried to reach him, to beat back the flames, but the fire was everywhere, and the cathedral doors began to buckle as the firefighters battered against them. Their brother burned without a scream, without a sound.


They retreated then and raced behind their guide to a side door, slipping outside at the same instant the water from the fire hoses poured into the cathedral. They never saw the man hiding among the shadows of one of the pulpits, a silencer–equipped pistol at his side.


Once they were gone, he came down from the pulpit, touched a spring hidden in the wall, and disappeared.




Marco Valoni took a drag off his cigarette, and the smoke mixed in his lungs with the smoke from the fire. He'd come outside for fresh air while the firefighters finished putting out the embers that were still glowing in and around the right side of the high altar.

The piazza was closed off with police blockades, and the carabinieri were holding back the curious and the concerned, all craning their necks to try to see what had happened in the cathedral. At that hour of the evening, Turin was a beehive of people desperate to learn whether the Holy Shroud had been damaged.

Marco had asked the reporters covering the fire to try to keep the crowds calm: The shroud had been unscathed. What he hadn't told them was that someone had died in the flames. He still didn't know who.

Another fire. Fire seemed to plague the old cathedral. But Marco didn't believe in coincidences, and the Turin Cathedral was a place where too many accidents happened: robbery attempts and, within recent memory, three fires. In the first one, which occurred after the Second World War, investigators had found the bodies of two men incinerated by the flames. The autopsy determined that they were both about twenty–five and that, despite the fire, they had been killed by gunshot. And last, a truly gruesome finding: Their tongues had been surgically cut out. But why? And who had shot them? No one had ever been able to find out. The case was still open, but it had gone cold.

Neither the faithful nor the general public knew that the shroud had spent long periods of time outside the cathedral over the last hundred years. Maybe that was why it had been spared the consequences of so many accidents.

A vault in the Banco Nazionale had been the shroud's place of safekeeping. The relic was taken out of it only to be displayed on special occasions, and then only under the strictest security. But despite all the security, the shroud had been exposed to danger–real danger–more than once. It had been moved back to the cathedral only days ago, in preparation for the unveiling of extensive refurbishments.

Marco still remembered the fire of April 12, 1997. How could he forget, since it was the same night–or early morning–he'd been celebrating his retirement with his colleagues in the Art Crimes Department.

He was fifty then, and he'd just been through open–heart surgery. Two heart attacks and a life–or–death operation had finally persuaded him to listen when Giorgio Marchesi, his brother–in–law and cardiologist, advised him to devote himself to the dolce far niente, or, at the least, put in for a nice quiet bureaucratic position, one of those jobs where he could spend his time reading the newspaper and taking midmorning breaks for cappuccino in some nearby cafe.

Paola had insisted that he retire; she sugared the pill by reminding him that he had gone as high in the Art Crimes Department as he could go–he was the director–and that he could honorably end a brilliant career and devote himself to enjoying life. But he had resisted. He'd rather go into some office–any office–every day than to turn into fifty–year–old retired jetsam washed up on some beach somewhere. Even so, he'd resigned his position as director of the Art Crimes Department, and the night before the fire, despite Paola's and Giorgio's protests, he'd gone out to dinner with his friends. By daybreak they were still drinking. These were the same people he'd been working with for fourteen, fifteen hours a day for the last twenty years, tracking down the mafias that trafficked in artworks, unmasking forgeries, and protecting, so far as was humanly possible, Italy's artistic heritage.

The Art Crimes Department was a special agency under both the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Culture. It was a unique collection of police officers mixed with a good number of archaeologists, historians, experts in medieval art, modern art, religious art. . . . He had given it the best years of his life.

It had not been easy to climb the ladder of success. His father had worked in a gas station; his mother was a homemaker. They had just scraped by, and he'd managed to attend the university thanks only to scholarships. But his mother had pleaded with him to find a good, secure job, one with the state, and he had given in to her wishes. A friend of his father's, a policeman who regularly stopped to fill up at the gas station, helped him with the entrance tests for the carabinieri. Marco took them and passed them, but he wasn't cut out to be a cop, so he continued his studies at night, after work, and eventually managed to earn a degree in history. The first thing he did when he got his degree was request a transfer to the Art Crimes Department. He combined his two specialties, history and police work, and little by little, working hard and taking advantage of breaks when they came his way, he rose through the ranks to the top. How he'd enjoyed traveling through Italy, experiencing its treasures firsthand and getting to know other countries, too, as his career progressed!

He had met Paola at the University of Rome. She was studying medieval art; it was love at first sight, and within months they were married. They'd been together for twenty–five years; they had two children and were truly happy together.

Paola taught at the university, and she had never expressed any resentment at how little time he spent at home. Only once had they had a really big fight. It was when he returned from Turin that spring of 1997, after the cathedral fire, and told her he was not retiring after all, but not to worry because he would redefine his job as director. He would embrace bureaucracy. He wasn't going to be traveling anymore or out in the field doing investigations–he was just going to be a bureaucrat. Giorgio, his doctor, told him he was crazy. But the men and women he worked with were delighted.

It was the fire in the cathedral that had changed his mind about staying. He was convinced that it hadn't been accidental, no matter how often he told the press it was.

And now here he was, investigating another fire in the Turin Cathedral. Less than two years ago he'd been called in to investigate another robbery attempt, one of many over the years. The thief had been caught almost by accident. Although it was true he hadn't had any cathedral property on him, it was surely just because he hadn't had time to pull off the job. Artworks and other objects near the shroud's casket were in disarray. A priest passing by just then saw a man running, apparently scared off by the sound of the alarm, which was louder than the cathedral's bells. The priest ran after him, yelling, "Fermati, ladro! Fermati!"–"Stop, thief! Stop!"–and two young men passing by had tackled him and held him until the police arrived. The thief had no tongue; it had been surgically removed. Nor did he have any fingerprints; the tips of his fingers were scarred over from burns. The thief, so far as the investigation was concerned, was a man without a country, without a name, and he was now rotting in the Turin jail. He'd remained obdurate and unresponsive through interrogation after interrogation. They'd never managed to get anything out of him.

No, Marco didn't believe in coincidences. It was no coincidence that all the "thieves" in the Turin Cathedral had no tongues and had had their fingerprints burned off. Such a pattern would be almost laughable were it not so grotesque.


From the Hardcover edition.
Julia Navarro|Author Q&A

About Julia Navarro

Julia Navarro - The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud

Photo © J. Manuel Fernandez

Julia Navarro, author of the internationally bestselling novel The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud, is a well-known Madrid-based journalist and political analyst for Agencia OTR/Europa Press, as well as a correspondent for other prominent Spanish radio and television networks and print media.

Author Q&A

What prompted your interest in the Shroud of Turin?

It was due to a coincidence. I had never been especially interested in the Shroud of Turin. But one summer I was with my son at the beach, and, as I always do while he swims, I read newspapers. We had been at the beach for a few hours, and I had already reviewed a dozen newspapers. I was bored, so I began to reread them, and that was when I came upon the obituary of an acquaintance, Walter McCrone, a forensic expert who had analyzed the Shroud of Turin. Next to this obituary was a small article recapping the history of the debate about the Shroud’s authenticity. It was this small article that ignited my imagination and I started to think about writing a novel. So The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud is the fruit of coincidence. I am a journalist, and if not for that vacation, I would not have had the time to read the obituary. But that August I did have the time and my imagination began to fly.

Though you have written several other books, The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud  is your first novel. Why did you choose to write a novel about the shroud rather than a straight nonfiction account of this mystery?
 
Having had various books published on political matters, I did not feel any need to write a novel. But for the coincidence mentioned above, I might not have written this one. In any case, I probably would not have written a nonfiction account of the Shroud, because such “mysteries” are not part of what I work on in my personal and professional life.

In the book, you describe how the shroud made its way from Jerusalem at the time of Christ to what is now Turkey and ultimately to Turin. How much of that story line is based on legend, and how much is a product of your own imagination?

In my novel history is mixed with legend, because there are parts of the official history of the Shroud that belongs to the world of legend and of speculation. I found a precious story in the Apocryphal Gospels about the king Abgaro of Edesa who writes a letter to Jesus of Nazareth asking Jesus to cure him. According to the story, Jesus responds that he cannot come himself to the King, but that he will send one of his disciples. It then tells that the cloth that shrouded the dead body of Jesus came with the disciple to Edesa and this artifact cured king Abgaro of his illness. (Edesa is the present city of Urfa in Turkey.) As the tale continues, the pagan son of Abgaro persecuted his father’s converts to the new faith and the miraculous cloth was secreted away, only to be rediscovered in a niche in the city wall centuries later. It is true that the Byzantines carried the Shroud to Constantinople in 944 A.D. and that it was conserved in the church of Holy María of Blanquernas until 1204 A.D. when it disappeared. Did the crusaders bring it to France? Was it sold to Balduino, the Byzantine emperor? At that time, only the Knights Templar had the means to buy such a relic; did they? The Shroud reappeared in France in 1349 A.D. in the hands of a nobleman named Godofredo of Charny. It is also a fact that in 1453 A.D. the granddaughter of Godofredo died yielding it to the House of Saboya. With this basis, one can continue the history of the Shroud up to modern days; all I have done what have done is to fill in the gaps with imagination. In reality the Shroud suffered the consequences of the fire in the nights of December 3rd and 4th, 1532, and then later the Shroud suffered in another fire on April 13, 1997 in the Cathedral of Turin. All I have done in The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud is mix reality into the legend, remaining faithful to history and to what documentation exists.

The plot weaves together two stories spanning 2,000 years: the history and legends surrounding the Shroud and a modern-day investigation into crimes committed at the Cathedral of Turin. Tell us what it’s like, as a writer, to immerse you in multiple worlds at one time.
 
Once I composed the thesis of the novel, I began to read everything that I could on the history and vicissitudes of the Shroud. I consulted with my historian friends, who guided me on which books and documents to read. I traveled to Turin, and I am lucky to have friends that live there and know the city well. Most important was the idea of the novel; once I had it clearly, all I did was to seek documentation and to work. It is very important to me that a novel is based on historical data, that I be faithful to the history. An author can place her characters in any phase of history but a writer cannot distort the actual historic period. At least that is what I believe.

Any religious thriller—especially one that involves art-related crimes, a medieval mystery and the Knights Templar, as yours does— inevitably faces comparison with The Da Vinci Code. What influence, if any, did Dan Brown's book have on your story, your writing, or even your decision to write The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud at this time?
 
When I started writing The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud , The Da Vinci Code had not been published, at least not in Spain. When I delivered the manuscript to my publisher, he also hadn’t seen The Da Vinci Code, and therefore it did not influence my writing. And I sincerely believe that The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud has nothing to do with The Da Vinci Code. I sincerely believe that they cannot be compared, and those who have read or will read it will immediately realize that they have nothing to do with one another. I believe that the differences are totally obvious.

Like you, the character of Ana Jiménez is a Spanish journalist. How much of you and your method of reporting are evident in her character?

There is a lot of me in Ana Jiménez, but when I described this character, she is not me. My friends and people who know me immediately see some similarities. Ana Jiménez is a journalist that pursues the truth and for this reason she faces many difficulties, but does not yield. She is pigheaded and tenacious, and I too can be described that way.

As a journalist, how difficult was it to make the transition to writing novels?

 
The truth is that for me it has not been a complicated transition. When I sat down to write The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud I did it without knowing if would be published. My first reader was my husband, if he had told me that the novel would not be worthwhile I would never have delivered it to David Trias, my publisher. Even so, when I delivered it to David he was not sure that he would publish it. And when we did give him the manuscript to publish, it was without expectation that the novel would become such a success. I am very thankful to the readers because they are they the ones that have made The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud a best seller, not only in Spain but in other many European countries.

Who are your favorite novelists, especially English-language ones, and how do you feel they have impacted your fiction writing?

My bedside book is The Odyssey, which in my opinion is the best book of adventures ever written. The Odyssey also describes an internal quest for truth, a cerebral adventure. I am an avid reader of Cervantes, of Quevedo, of Garcia Marquez, of Mujica Laínez (Bomarzo is a novel that impressed me) of Vargas Llosa, Umberto Ecco, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Alexandre Dumas, Gustave Flaubert. In English, I read Coetzee, Philip, Roth, Doris Lessing, Robert Graves, Thomas Mann, Malcolm Lowry, Scott Fitzgerald, and of course, Salinger. I am a compulsive reader. I can not imagine myself without a book close by, and for me there is nothing like reading; to read and to travel is what I prefer more than anything else. Reading is to dream, to reflect, and to know....

What is the status of the film that is to be based on your book? How involved are you in adapting the novel for the screen? Is the film scheduled for U.S. release, and if so, when?

I know that they are finishing to work on the screenplay, and they have not involved me because I sold the rights of the novel.

How has your own religious experience influenced this novel and the two others you are already working on?

I try to deal with religion with great respect and independently of my own beliefs. I have had no problem with the Roman Catholic Church. In any case, The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud is not a religious novel: it is a novel of adventure, of mystery, that has the objective to entertain but I believe that also result in some readers reflection on fanaticism, and on the hidden powers that moves society; when I refer to "hidden powers" I refer to "economic powers.”

Tell us about your next novel, The Bible of Clay.

The Bible of Clay is my second novel and it is set in Mesopotamia during the time of the Patriarch Abraham, as well as in the Europe leveled by Nazism, especially in Berlin and Mahaussen, and also in present day in the months prior to the war in Iraq. It is also a novel of adventure and mystery; it invites readers to reflect on the war and the business of war; it is true that there are many who have benefited materially from the current war in Iraq. Some of these newly rich people are those who see the economic advantage of a war without seeing the suffering and pain it may bring. This novel too has become a best seller thanks to European and Spanish readers and I trust that when it is published in the United States, it will be similarly popular. It is my great hope that my novels will published in the United States. In a few months my third novel, The Blood of an Innocent, will be published in Spain, and I am already thinking about a fourth... But first I am impatient to know if The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud pleases American readers. I hope so!


From the Hardcover edition.

Praise

Praise

“For readers who can’t get enough of the religious suspense genre.”—Publishers Weekly


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