John Heubusch Returns to the Shroud
The Shroud of Turin, no matter how many times it will be proven true or false by experts from all walks of life, will remain cemented as an element of popular culture. Even if it turns out to be a hoax with no meaning to it, the shroud has already captured our collective imagination, and I believe it goes double for authors such as John Heubusch who has actually based a book series on it titled The Shroud Series. In the first book we were introduced to Dr. Jon Bondurant, a faithless skeptic whose values and beliefs were heavily tested when he was launched on a globetrotting adventure to save the blood of Christ from falling into the wrong hands. Needless to say, his adventures were only the beginning of a much greater journey, one which will lead him to save the world in The Second Coming.
The story begins to unfold as we are presented with a cataclysmic error: a fallen angel has been resurrected with some blood from the Shroud of Turin. As it happened, the blood actually belonged to an evil “Watcher”, and it seems his number one priority is the destruction of mankind. He begins by unleashing a massive plague, and it’s only a matter of time before his methods escalate into total annihilation. All hope isn’t lost however, as there exists a child, also born from the Shroud of Turin… the difference being his DNA is believed to belong to Jesus Christ himself. While the child’s parents are quite uncertain as to what he is, it becomes clear to them he is of another world when his healing powers manifest themselves.
The Clash of Faith and Science Continues
A rather prominent theme in the first book, the opposition between science and religion returns to the fore once again, and if it wasn’t written by John Heubusch, I might have been a little apprehensive to return to this topic. Thankfully though, the author handles it in a rather objective and non-preachy manner, essentially discussing where the two oppose or agree with each other, trying to raise as many points as possible and push us to think for ourselves. It never sounds like he’s taking one particular stance or another, but rather takes pleasure in creating hypothetical scenarios with no easy answers. For instance, is a child cloned from DNA on the Shroud of Turin who can perform divine miracles more a product of science, or religion? Ultimately, this is the sort of book where we come to our own conclusions, all equally justified and coloured by our personal worldviews.
To be fair I had my doubts about basing an entire book series around the Shroud of Turin… after all, how much can one really milk a piece of cloth, no matter how legendary it might be? So far though, I’m glad to say the author has proven me wrong and in my opinion, the shroud still remains a powerful centrepiece with much potential, bringing together science and faith like few other objects could. As a matter of fact, I feel it’s becoming a bit of a character in its own right, the omniscient observer with the power to silently direct the course of human fate, consistently teetering on the edge between human salvation and eternal damnation. As it stands, I’m more than confident it will eventually take us on unexpected journeys, both in terms of story and philosophy.
Bondurant’s Worldly Travels
While this book is definitely filled with food for thought about science, religion, the nature of man and other vague concepts, it never forgets about the thrilling story it’s trying to tell. The stakes are immediately apparent and feel as hefty as they should: a seemingly-unstoppable force has already begun the process of destroying humanity. Now, being readers we obviously know humanity will ultimately survive this ordeal, but I still feel Heubusch did a good enough job at creating some doubts about the final resolution, at times making us feel like maybe not everything will turn out alright. The plot moves along fairly quickly with a prevailing atmosphere of urgency as we travel with Bondurant from one country to the next with barely any time to stop and take in the sights. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of religious debates, the story still holds up well enough on its own as an adventure thriller.
I was happy to see the return of the good doctor back in the role he knows best: saviour of the universe. His attitude and remarks often lend a slight injection of lightheartedness into the story, and his interactions with the devout Domenika are always pleasant to read through. I find him to be a very easy character to root for as he is, on a few levels at least, a person most of us wouldn’t mind having around with his biggest flaws seeming tiny in comparison with his qualities. The fallen angel is also characterized in some interesting ways and is ultimately more than just yet another villain who wants to destroy the world. As weird as it might seem, the author manages to sell convincingly the idea of a mere regular man opposing a force of divine destruction, leading to a conclusion which I will only qualify as even better than in the first book.
The Final Verdict
The Second Coming by John Heubusch is a fantastic second entry into The Shroud Series, building on the groundwork laid by its predecessor and soaring to new heights. The healthy combination of philosophical musings, globetrotting action and a very original story premise set this thriller apart from its peers. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the first book as well as everyone who likes thrillers centred on religious topics.
John Heubsuch is an American executive in the private and political sectors, having worked for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute in California. In 2017 he published his first novel, The Shroud Conspiracy, a religious thriller revolving around the Shroud of Turin, and was widely well-received as a promising indicator of what the man with the storied biography might be able to accomplish in the realms of literature.