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Category Archives: Jerusalem Stories
“Ramsay audaciously sets his outstanding third Jerusalem mystery (after 2013’s Holy Smoke) at the very time of Jesus’s arrest. When Pontius Pilate, emperor’s prefect of Judea and overseer of Palestine, is arrested for murdering his rival, Aurelius Decimus, all the evidence is against him. Pilate was caught literally red-handed, covered in blood at the scene of the crime, with his dagger stuck in Decimus’s corpse. Pilate insists he was framed. Since he doesn’t believe he will get justice from his Roman countrymen, he turns to Rabban Gamaliel, chief rabbi of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of first-century Israel. The rabbi’s commitment to justice compels him to accept the case, despite his loathing for his “client” and the consequences to his own standing if his fellow Jews get wind of his role. Meanwhile, the Dagger Men, a sect of Jewish assassins, begin their reign of terror. Ramsay brings the tumult of the time to vivid life while neatly integrating the events leading to Christ’s crucifixion into the whodunit story line. (Dec.)” – Publishers Weekly
A Novel by Frederick Ramsay
29 CE, Jerusalem. The Holy of Holies in the Temple is a place that no man may enter, save for the High Priest, and even then on the rarest of occasions. But when a corpse is found in that sacred place, badly burned, the High Priest is certain that whoever he was, the blasphemer has been struck down by an angry God. Rabban Gamaliel, the chief rabbi, is less sure, and sets out, with the assistance of his friend, the physician Loukas, to find the truth, no matter what it may be. But it seems that the truth is more far-reaching than anyone could have guessed.
A murdered servant girl is found in the palace of King Herod Antipas. The prefect, Pontius Pilate, is in attendance. The populace has already been buzzing over the brutal death of one of their prophets, John, known familiarly as the Baptizer, and scandal is in the air.
Pilate wants no trouble and insists that there be an independent investigation into the murder. But Antipas will have none of Pilate’s men in the palace, and Pilate doesn’t trust Antipas. So Pilate turns to Gamaliel, the chief rabbi and head of the Sanhedrin, and coerces him to do the detective work. Gamaliel is a Talmudic scholar, not a sleuth, and he at first struggles; however, he is soon won over to the assignment as he learns more of the dead girl’s background and that of the other major players in the drama, particularly Antipas’ foster brother, Menahem. Soon, Gamaliel, in Sherlockian fashion, begins to fit the pieces together, or, as his ”Watson” Loukas says, ”strips the veils from his personal Salome.” Pilate, in spite of his impatience with the pace and direction of the investigation, is rewarded when it turns out that the girl is not the mere servant that everyone had assumed.
Meanwhile, the Battle of Actium and the fascinating histories of Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Herod the Great, Mark Antony, and Augustus Caesar become critically entwined with the investigation. And the figure of Jesus, the rabbi from Nazareth, with his ragged band of enthusiasts and his habit of annoying Caiaphas, the High Priest, moves enigmatically in the background.
Released February 7, 2012
The boy Judas Iscariot struggles to understand his mother’s god. Despairing, he becomes a survivor in the streets of the first century Roman empire. Later, determined to avenge the wrongs committed against his mother and sister, he returns to join the rebels led by Barabbas, only to be betrayed again. Broken, he is brought to the Zealots at Qumran and eventually to the Rabbi Jesus. During this journey he discovers God and is baptized into messianic anticipation. His enthusiasm for revolution leads him to out-guess God. He proceeds down a path that will result in a difficult and fateful choice.
Book Club/Study guide also available
“If there’s any complaint to be made about the book, it’s that it’s too short, especially at the end, where readers will want to hear more about the familiar cast of characters. Ramsay’s observations about the roles of women in biblical society make the novel a good choice for book clubs.” — Booklist
“A refreshing take on a story we all thought we knew.” - John Maddox Roberts