Lewis Perdue,
Daughter of God
(Forge, 1999)

Lewis Perdue combines Nazis, the art world and the intricacies of faith and its various practices into his suspenseful thriller Daughter of God.

Zoe Ridgeway, an art historian and broker, gets an offer she just can't refuse: the opportunity to manage the estate of wealthy art collector Willi Max. The estate consists of priceless art stolen by the Nazis during the Hitler regime, and Max's desire, upon his death, is for Zoe to return as much of the artwork as possible to its rightful owners. More than that, he wants to pass on a kind of riddle, clues to a religious secret which could turn Christianity on its ear and which agents of the Vatican particularly seek to suppress.

His hope is that Zoe, with the help of her husband Seth, a former police officer turned professor of philosophy and comparative religion, can uncover the relic of a second Messiah who died in the 4th century C.E. The relic belongs to a 15-year-old girl named Sophia, executed when she demonstrated evidence of her divinity. The prospect excites both Zoe and Seth, although they have no idea how swiftly they will be drawn into a web of kidnaping, deceit and murder. The various factions with a strong interest in the relic will stop at nothing to gain control of it, and the Ridgeways are trapped in the middle, forced to fight for their lives.

Daughter of God is solidly plot driven, but it's an exciting and thought-provoking, if violent, plot. A bit of suspension of disbelief is required for Zoe and Seth's ability to survive while people are dying left and right around them, mostly in horrible ways. Characterization is sacrificed to the plot, and it's disappointing that touches such as Zoe's ability to perceive colors as musical tones gets dropped instead of worked into the story somehow. Also, while the huge chunks of expository dialogue pertaining to the suppression of female divinity are interesting, they don't really advance the plot successfully and don't ring true as dialogue.

Still, Daughter of God moves swiftly and is almost impossible to put down. The flaws can easily be forgiven in the face of nail-biting suspense; you may want to schedule this one for a weekend -- you're going to need to sleep in after sitting up to read it.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]



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