I'm not normally a thriller reader because, quite frankly, these
suspense novels just don't thrill me. But as Ballantine Books
had sent an advance reader's copy of a new John Case novel, I decided
to take a break from my usual fare of character-driven novels and give
The Genesis Code a shot.
This book is anything but a no-brainer. "John Case," the book says, is
"the pseudonym of an award-winning investigative reporter and the
author of two nonfiction books about the U.S. intelligence community...
resident of Washington D.C., he is the proprietor of a company that
specializes in international investigations for law firms and labor
unions." Take out the "reporter" and "author" parts, and you describe
perfectly Joe Lassiter, protagonist of The Genesis Code.
The story opens in a small Italian village where a priest hears a
confession that nearly stops his heart. What a doctor tells him in the
confessional booth is a secret that could rock the Catholic Church,
indeed the very world, to its foundations. The reader quickly gets a
lesson in Vatican hierarchy and bureaucracy as well as a window into
the right-wing reactionary Catholic sect called Umbra Domini, where
wheels are set turning.
American Joe Lassiter comes onto the scene when he learns that his
sister and her son have died in an apparent case of arson overkill.
An investigator by profession, he quickly learns that his sister and
nephew were murdered before the fire. Their killer is in custody, but
not talking, when the body of Lassiter's nephew is exhumed and
reincinerated. Lassiter is galvanized, and off after the story's main
intriguing question: Why?
Lassiter's quest for the reason of his sister's death will put him in
the crosshairs of an international conspiracy. Along the way, the
reader learns a lot about international police agencies, schism within
the Catholic Church, fertility procedures, Christian holy relics, and
the biological foundations of cloning. One thing I will tell you:
no one here is trying to recreate Hitler (that's a pet peeve of mine in
suspense thrillers -- neo-Nazis bringing Hitler back to life, whether
it be through cloning or by somehow having cryogenically preserved his
head. Not here.) As Lassiter begins untangling the knot of conspiracy,
he will discover a secret as explosive as it is relevant to recent
The weakest part of The Genesis Code is the ending. The story's
central question is answered, but the character of Joe Lassiter loses
some of his integrity. And given the plausible nature of the novel as a
whole, the final paragraph of the epilogue seems a wee bit fantastic.
All in all, though, The Genesis Code is very readable and
entertaining for a book of its genre, well-suited for that time when
you just want to escape for a few hours.