cover image The Shroud Conspiracy

The Shroud Conspiracy

John Heubusch. Howard, $26 (416p) ISBN 978-1-5011-5570-3

An atheist forensic anthropologist seeks scientific and theological answers in Heubusch’s cumbersome thriller. Famed scientist and skeptic Jon Bondurant takes up the Vatican’s challenge to settle the origins of the Shroud of Turin. When a traitor compromises the study by tampering with a sample of blood from the relic, the second coming of Christ itself could be at risk. Dense exposition and clunky characterization hampers Heubusch’s thought-provoking conceit: montage-like scraps of personal details and backstory play in characters’ heads while they lose interest in conversations, try to sleep, or sit on planes; an Indian character speaks in what the book characterizes as “Hindi Ebonics,” a misguided attempt to merge African-American Vernacular English with a Hindi accent. Potentially disturbing for some readers, an act of animal cruelty and a rape are both central plot devices. Though a shy and taciturn misogynist by reputation, genius Bondurant charms his way through every interaction and women line up to sleep with him. The few female characters are all “as distracting as [they are] talented,” but in the end helpless and uninformed. While Heubusch establishes an interesting premise, the thrilling tale that arises by merging science with religious mysticism fails to overcome the haphazard plotting and unlikable characters. (Mar.)