Miracle in a Dry Season    Dangerous Passage

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Crime Scene Jerusalem
by Alton Gansky

Reviewed by Kevin Lucia

"...an excellent, engaging mystery."

Premier crime scene investigator Maxwell Odom is being sent on a vacation he wants no part of. Still grieving over a hidden pain, Max can’t keep away from an investigation that’s become too personal, and hounding the investigators in charge has landed him into hot water with his superiors. When his boss offers him some “leave time” to lecture at a forensics convention in Jerusalem, it’s clear if Max doesn’t accept the offer and clear out for a few weeks, his career is on the line.

Max accepts the offer grudgingly and promptly finds himself in the revered holy land of thousands, perhaps millions. Still not sure why he’s here, Max checks into his hotel for the night, falling into a reluctant sleep.

The next morning, however, when he steps on the street to meet his driver to the convention, Max steps into an utter, fantastic, bizarre impossibility. In a blink of an eye, he’s somehow slipped through the folds of time and now finds himself in Biblical Jerusalem, thousands of years ago.Gone are the modern conveniences of the present, there are Roman soldiers everywhere, and a world Max neither understands nor believes is possible.

Sure he’s suffering from either an aneurysm or a stroke, Max initially disbelieves everything he sees. Led by a sarcastic and witty guide who most certainly knows more than he’s telling, Max undertakes a forensics investigation unlike anything he’s ever encountered. He’s accorded a rare, impossible privilege; the chance to ply his talents to investigate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, crucified only days earlier.

What Max finds challenges his beliefs and unlocks the bindings on his heart. If he’s not dying of a stroke, he’ll discover the most astounding truth of all time, and perhaps heal his own wounds along the way.

Crime Scene Jerusalem is a unique novel taking what easily could’ve been a predictable plot - man taken back in time to see proof of Jesus’ resurrection – and turns it into a humorous, intriguing, witty, and at times heartbreaking tale that’s more about a man’s internal journey to peace and forgiveness than a retelling of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.

Such a tale is in danger of numerous pitfalls; the chief among them the construction of some elaborate, unbelievable plot to justify Max’s time travel, but CSJ neatly sidesteps this by never offering an explanation in the first place. The readers understand early on Max is here to investigate Jesus’ death, but the story holds onto the why until the end. For a good while you’re never quite sure if Max is suffering from his suspected stroke or not, despite his guide’s assertions to the contrary (And, I’m certainly not going to tell you, Dear Reader, if that’s the case or not. Discover it on your own).

Gansky’s characterization brings to life Biblical characters we’ve heard endless stories about, and though this is probably an odd comparison, the narrative continually reminded me of Madeleine L’Engle’s Over Many Waters, when Sandy and Dennys Murry are whisked away to Old Testament times, only days before the Flood. Though one is an adult novel and the other is YA, they both share the feeling of history coming alive, which is a testament not only to the authors’ research, but also their abilities to take that research and turn it into vibrant, engaging stories – which is much harder to do than the research itself.

Though we as readers know the outcome of Max’s investigation, it is intriguing to see well-researched modern investigative techniques tasked to solving “the murder of Jesus Christ”. Crime Scene Jerusalem is an excellent, engaging mystery, and Max Odom is a character I hope to see more of.

Kevin LuciaKevin Lucia Kevin Lucia writes for The Press & Sun Bulletin and The Relief Journal. His short fiction has appeared in Coach’s Midnight Diner, The Relief Journal, All Hallows, Darkened Horizons Vol. 3 & 4, NexGen Pulp Magazine Issues 1 & 4, From the Shadows, Morpheus Tales Magazine, Bohemian-Alien, Shroud Publishing’s horror anthology, Abominations, and Tyndale House’s inspirational anthology Life Savors. He’s currently writing a novella for Shroud Publishing’s upcoming novella series, The Hiram Grange Chronicles. He resides in Castle Creek, New York, with his wife Abby, daughter Madison and son Zackary. He teaches high school English at Seton Catholic Central High School in Binghamton, New York; and is finishing his Masters of Arts in Creative Writing at Binghamton University. Visit him at his website and Myspace page.