What is it about Nazis and religious artifacts? A political movement that disparaged anything remotely God-like somehow is depicted in fiction desperate to possess religious artifacts. An entire film franchise was built on this premise when Indiana Jones, in Raiders of the Lost Ark, battled Nazis obsessed with finding the Ark of the Covenant, which held the Ten Commandments, then later in The Last Crusade, the Holy Grail, that Christ used at the Last Supper.
L.C. Shaw uses this premise as a jumping off point for her mystery, The Network, where a maniacal Damon Crosse (trust, me, there’s a Nazi connection here, too) will stop at nothing to obtain the 30 pieces of silver that Judas was given by the chief priests when he agreed to hand over Christ. No matter the item – an ark, a chalice, or silver coins – what the seeker hopes to obtain is not religious clarity, but power.
There is, of course, more to Shaw’s plot. Crosse has set up an institute that purports to do scientific research while it’s really a cover for recruiting followers who are brainwashed or bribed into doing the leader’s bidding. There’s no end to the people Crosse has in his pocket – senators, judges, financiers, business leaders. Want a piece of legislation passed? Crosse has a senator who can help. He even arranges marriages, all the better to control, not only vulnerable individuals, but ensure that he will produce heirs to carry on his work.
The Network suffers at times from cliched characters and implausible twists and turns. Yet, in the end, it doesn’t seem so outlandish that someone as narcissistic as Crosse can actually convince so many people that the truth is not the truth and that if they fail to follow him, they will suffer the consequences. You’ll find yourself mulling that over long after you’ve turned the last page.
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