The Assignment is a novel for today, full of religious intrigue, a secret order of priests, and a mystery involving Christ. Of the flurry of books with similar themes, it is my favorite.
The Order of St. Lazare is small, comprised of only seven priests, and obscure. The order was established in the 13th century to protect and assist the catacon, or the restrainer, who “holds back the secret powers of lawlessness.” The catacon has been missing for several decades, and the current assignment of the Order of St. Lazare is to find him.
It is rumored that the Nazis buried certain Jews alive in concrete tombs outside Birkenau, the second most famous death camp of WWII. The Lazarites believe their catacon may be in one of those tombs. Under the cover of night, they unearth a vault, and desecrate it by opening it up - and releasing a man who has been entombed there for over sixty years. The catacon has returned for what may be his final engagement with the forces of evil.
In the international intrigue, violence and escalating anti-Semitism that follows the Birkenau desecration, we as readers get glimpses of the spiritual personalities behind what is going on. If it cannot be stopped, the coming war will be multi-dimensional. It will be viciously fought on both the material and spiritual levels. The catacon must seek out and destroy his enemy to prevent global war. He has failed before, but he cannot fail this time.
In the fast-paced and well-written The Assignment, we see the occult in whispers and glimpses, so it is neither overwhelming nor unbelievable. It is interesting to note how deftly the author makes us at least consider the possibility that the unbelievable is, in fact, true.
Olson’s characters are complex, full and dynamic. He expertly conveys Nora McPheran’s frame of mind when she puts aside decades of timidity in order to unearth her family’s secrets. Olson draws a woman of courage and tenacity who uses the pain of the past to energize her search for answers.
He also shows us the despair, anger, loneliness, frustration and longing of the catacon. We read the ancient diaries that detail time after time when the catacon has failed, and his enemy has escaped. And we share the moment when he overcomes his guilt and failure to finally conquer and destroy the enemy.
Fans of The DaVinci Code will enjoy The Assignment with its similar politico-religious theme of how religion impacts the world at large. If you thought The DaVinci Code was heretical, you’ll be pleased at how The Assignment I nhow it explores that theme without challenging the basic tenets of Christianity. In either case, The Assignment is a satisfying thriller.