The Second Coming with John Heubusch
The Shroud of Turin is without contest one of the more intriguing pieces of history that we’ve had the chance to study, and after all the scientific analysis conducted on it various communities are still torn between each other as to the accuracy and veracity of various details. Regardless of which side of the spectrum you fall on, it has to be admitted that it’s definitely one of the most titillating curiosities to fuel the imagination, something many authors couldn’t possibly allow themselves to ignore. While we may not come to an agreement on the factual nature of the shroud, we can at least form a unity around the fiction that it spawns, with The Shroud Conspiracy by John Heubusch being one of the latest forays in this specific genre.
The novel doesn’t beat much around the bush or try to establish any real-world facts. We simply follow a forensic anthropologist by the name of Dr. Jon Bondurant, a lifelong atheist with a basically a career devoted to debunking religious artifacts and the like. However, the Vatican one day invites him to examine The Shroud of Turin, and he takes on the challenge of proving once and for all just how fake it is. There he meets a beautiful representative of the Vatican, Domenika Josef, and soon finds his ambitious hampered by the discoveries he’s making… namely, that the shroud might be real after all. As Bondurant and his team dig deeper and deeper into the artifact and the evidence of its veracity starts to mount, a blood sample taken from the shroud is stolen. Bondurant understands that if it is indeed the DNA of Jesus Christ, then letting it fall into the wrong hands could have tremendous repercussions, namely the second coming of a messiah tailored to a somber agenda hell-bent on worldwide domination.
An Unstoppable Train of Events
While the book could certainly have gone in a more philosophical direction considering the subject matter, I think many will be happy to learn that Heubusch elected to take a different route. He didn’t really want to focus on heavy-handed morality or beat us over the head with his own personal views and opinions. Quite to the contrary, he chose to write this simply as a thriller focusing on events and actions, moving the story along as quickly as possible. As a result, what we get is a globe-trotting adventure that moves at a very fast pace but is nevertheless easy to follow as we really only have to follow one major thread, and it goes from one checkpoint to the next in a logical and orderly fashion. The simplistic quality of the writing (which doesn’t mean unrefined, just to clarify) helps accentuate that structural decision, allowing the plotline to flow along in a smooth and even fashion.
With that being said, I found that on the whole, the story was a tad bit predictable, with a few of the twists and turns being quite obviously-spotted from miles away. The ending also left something to be desired, for it felt like a rushed addendum to leave some room open for a sequel. It’s not really unsatisfying, but it certainly isn’t the most memorable part of the book. Overall though, the story fulfils its job of making you turn the pages in anxiety for what might be coming next and makes you appreciate the long hunt.
The Realm of Unanswered Questions
If we take a moment to examine the characters themselves, I would say that in general the secondary ones are quite well-written, and despite lacking meaningful depth they are still enjoyable to follow for whatever purpose they might serve. The more important characters surrounding Bondurant are also quite commendable, and Heubusch even builds up some interesting questions and suspicions around some of them, albeit ones that never get answered… perhaps something reserved for the eventual sequel. Personally, that approach doesn’t bother me all that much as I find it a privilege to be able to fill in the gaps of a story with the power of my own imagination, but you’ve been warned in case it bothers you.
Finally, let’s have a look at our main man, Dr. Jon Bondurant. Quite surprisingly, I found his character to have been among the weaker ones in the book due to how much of an unlikeable and arrogant cliche he turned out to be at the start and how predictable his arc turned out to be. He doesn’t have many redeeming qualities, being a highly-qualified arrogant professor who likes to chase after young skirts, something 99% of teachers do if modern fiction is to be believed. While I will admit that over the course of it he became bearable and even started showing glimpses of likeable development, in my opinion it was too little too late for Bondurant to be a mainstay in what is planned to be a series, the way he currently is at least. There is always hope that new and redeeming qualities will shine in future works, but as of now he felt overshadowed by most other characters in my opinion.
The Final Verdict
Considering this was John Heubusch’s first novel, The Shroud Conspiracy is a very solid and promising effort which, despite its various flaws, still manages to be a very entertaining thriller that can easily spark your curiosity as to what else the author might be able to achieve. If you’re not looking for the perfect book and just want a fast-paced thriller that will keep you amused for a few evenings, then I don’t think you can go wrong with this book.
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.