“Religious historical fiction.” Is that its own genre? Almost. Ever since The DaVinci Code and what it passed as dubious, and often easily disproven, “facts” as its story’s background, the religious thriller has become a mainstay. Put something about a “code,” “codex,” “secret,” “Templar,” “hidden” or “scroll” in the title and you are guaranteed to sell a few. And many of them are good, or at least fun, escapes. A couple even try to get the history right.
Jerome Corsi’s The Shroud Codex weaves the centuries of debates surrounding the Shroud of Turin into a fast-paced story. Not as slick or well-realized as some, but not bad at all for his first novel.
Historian Paul L. Maier has a series that began with A Skeleton in God’s Closet. He uses his background to inject real history into his thrillers, though a few times it sounded as if he was giving a lecture. He also incorporates some current subject(s) of controversy that some of his competing writers are telling tales about. This one weaves in the historical Jesus debates. More Than a Skeleton continues the adventure, this time the hero facing down a supposed “messiah” (and endtimes theology).
The latest, The Constantine Codex finds Maier’s well-traveled characters in the wild world of lost, secret and suppressed manuscripts.
Each of Maier’s is a standalone novel, but I always like starting at the beginning. No matter how much an author explains later, seeing how the characters develop from the start is always best. He improves his storytelling with each, though the potential crisis in the third isn’t quite as humanity-changing as in the others.
History and religion, however, do make for quite the adventures.