Thursday, October 16, 2008

Review: The Bone Box

The Bone Box is the latest release from author Bob Hostetler, an award-winning author and pastor in Ohio. I think this is the first book of his that I've read, and it reminded me of John Olson's Fossil Hunter. It follows in the niche genre (that I may be coining) of archaeological suspense. Usually these books focus on a what if that surrounds the Bible. What if a fossil was discovered that supported intelligent design. Or in the Bone Box: what if a scroll is found which supports the resurrection?

Randall Bullock is an archaeologist in need of redemption both in his career and with his daughter. He's ready to pack up and head home to the States when his mentor sends him to a burial chamber uncovered by excavation. He's under an extremely tight deadline to complete the excavation. Then his 19 year old daughter arrives.

Joseph ben Caiaphas has been made the high priest. He's caught in a whirlwind of intrigue as he tries to bring righteousness back to Israel and protect his people from the Romans.

This book was a slow start for me -- not sure why. I think initially it may have been the back and forth between Rand's story and stepping back 2000 years to Caiaphas' story. Early on that slowed the story down for me, but about a third of the way through, that element is what kept me turning the pages.

This book is like many of the archeology suspense stories I've read. Misunderstood archaeologist trying to redeem a career that's on the skids and finds something they weren't looking for. In this case it's the bone box for the high priest at the time Jesus was killed. For the first third at least, I wondered why that would be important until Rand finds the scroll.

What set this book apart -- at least for me -- was the way that the author brought Caiaphas to life. Caveat -- remember this is a work of fiction. But sometimes fiction helps me try to imagine what was going on in the background that the Bible doesn't supply. I actually turned to the end notes about the midway part because what the author hypothesized fit and I wanted to see if he'd done his homework. He has, but it is fiction.

That said, this book's strength is in transporting you to Israel -- both today and 2000 years ago. The intrigue that may have surrounded the Sanhedrin comes to life and I found myself wondering about the tightrope Caiaphas may have walked. Now, what really happened could be far from the scenario the author paints, but I found his portrayal believable and challenging.

The suspense element didn't really build for me -- I think the action and adventure tag is a better fit. There isn't a real sense of a ticking bomb, though the setting is definitely exotic. I enjoyed this book, and kept returning to it. If you enjoy questions about what happened in Jesus' times with the flavor of Indiana Jones, then you will enjoy this book.

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