Bone Box, by Jay Amberg, is a fast-paced religious thriller that will make many question not just their religious beliefs, but their personal beliefs as well.
On a hill overlooking the Aegean Sea in Turkey, a stone box is unearthed by an international team of archaeologists. The box is the type Jews used to rebury their dead in the first century. On the box is an inscription written in Aramaic: Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. Sophia Altay, a French-Turkish archaeologist who’s in charge of the dig, attempts to keep the ossuary and its contents a secret until she can validate the relics and documents. Her fear is once word gets out people will go to great lengths to obtain them. Some may kill for them.
Joseph Travers, an American, has been sent to Turkey to evaluate the archaeological dig. He soon learns that his simple task is much more complicated. As he tries to unravel what’s going on, he’s pulled into a web of deceit, acts of vengeance, and violence. Who and what will survive?
What helps this story hit all the right spots, is Amberg’s ability to bring not just the characters to life, but Turkey as well. His descriptions make it easy to visualize, smell, and almost touch the objects in question. When writing about a place not many have visited it’s important to set the scene so the reader doesn’t feel completely adrift. Amberg not only sets the scenes, he does it with ease making the reader nearly feel at home in an exotic land.
Of course the reader can’t feel completely at ease since this is a thriller. It would ruin the fun to know right from the beginning all the good and bad guys. All the characters are nuanced, and at times, everyone’s motives are questioned. Some are more mysterious than others. As in real life, the characters are battling their own personal demons. Most of the turmoil is boiling under the surface, adding to the tension. Who and what will explode creates anxiety adding layer upon layer of intrigue and suspense.
The lingering questions of what’s real and what isn’t keeps the reader invested in the story. It’s not just the mystery about what’s inside the ossuary and if the artifacts are authentic. There are other factors that play a huge role in this thriller. Politics, religion, sexuality, culture, deceit, greed, and prejudices turn this thriller into a page-turner. There’s a need to find out what will happen with the bones and letters, but there’s also a desire to know what will happen to the characters.
Not all the questions are answered, especially about the relics and documents. However, by the end of the novel, one feels that maybe the contents of the ossuary weren’t the most important aspect of the story. They get the ball rolling, but it’s the actions that they set in motion that are integral to the story. The stories within the story demand attention and remind us that one event can be perceived rightly or wrongly from several perspectives.
Bone Box is an intriguing read and will appeal to those who enjoy religious thrillers along the lines of Dan Brown.