-- Benedict and Nancy Freedman, authors Mrs. Mike, Sappho: The Tenth Muse, The Immortals
In a thriller that rivals anything Dan Brown ever wrote, The Messiah Matrix threatens to take all your beliefs and toss them into the wind. A priest is murdered in Rome. His assassin is also shot and killed while with another priest. A message was delivered. An artifact is found on the floor of the sea. A Jesuit questions his faith and the history of his Church. An archaeologist uncovers the find of a lifetime and loses it.
A connection between Christ and Augustus Caesar? The wise men following a star in 17 BC? Curiouser and curiouser! Although you know what they say about curiosity. The Monsignor searching for the ashes of Christ--which he was killed before explaining. Does the Holy See condone murder? Damn Skippy it does!
This book is amazing! The two main characters of Ryan and Emily are the perfect pair of detectives. Will they be more? You’ll have to read the book! Emily’s coin is vital to the history of Christianity in the world, but will they get it back? On the coin, Augustus was wearing a crown with twelve spikes. What’s up with that?
In this tale we have good guys, very bad guys, the Holy Mother Church, good priests and very, very bad priests and one red-headed archaeology professor who, along with one questioning Jesuit and some of his brothers, may be able to solve the conundrum that is The Messiah Matrix.
--- Cheryl's Book Nook
"In a thriller that rivals anything Dan Brown ever wrote, The Messiah Matrix threatens to take all your beliefs and toss them into the wind." - Cheryl's Book Nook
"… unique combination of carefully researched material and breathless adventure story" – Book, Bones & Buffy
"The Messiah Matrix is a creative, thought-provoking, action-packed, historically laced, and masterfully detailed page-turner. (Watch out for paper cuts!--You'll be turning the pages quickly. It's that good!)" - Blogcritics
"More than modern thriller (which it definitely is), The Messiah Matrix is a thought-provoking, original examination of the origins and evolution of modern Christianity." - ThrillerThursday
Destined to be highly controversial - A Very Fine Novel
Review by Grady Harp
Dr. Kenneth John Atchity has created a novel that is not only an absorbing story, but it is also a platform for re-thinking the beginnings of Christianity as we have been taught. This fact will doubtless unsettle many right wing religious conservatives - much the way that Darwin's concept of Evolution has always caused them problems. And if that is an afterburn of reading this novel then we should hope it gains a very wide readership.
Acuity is a scholar, highly regarded among academics, and it is this aspect of his novel THE MESSIAH MATRIX that gives him the edge. The ideas he poses are scientifically grounded and so well developed, based on archeological findings and research, that the themes of this book cannot be disregarded. Add to that the fact that Acuity writes with an elegant style, not only in a manner that makes his story propelled forward at all times but also he creates a compelling atmosphere - both above and below the waters of the sea!
Very briefly the book opens with a gripping Prologue of the intentional murder of a priest who receives last rites from a Fr. Ryan McKeon, a Jesuit whose convictions about his religion and his church are tenuous at best, and as the struck priest dies he utters a secret that starts the story with a mesmerizing concept: who was the human form the Bible calls Jesus Christ but historical research may prove him to be a Roman Emperor, so similar are the facts about the beginning of the Biblical Christianity and Roman history. Parallel to this incident is the work of three archeological investigators, the women member of which dives to discover an ancient element at the bottom of the sea that supports the thoughts that begin with the secret shared with Ryan.
As with all successful novels there are power struggles, love stories, adventures around every turn and to reveal more would diminish the impact of the slowly unraveling mysteries that connect to question the validity of the historical Christian Savior. It is the mixture of investigative acumen and the gift for relating mystery writing in a style so eloquent that it resembles the major books of literature that makes this book so solid. There are those who compare it to the Da Vinci Code genre of books and yes, it is every bit as intoxicating as those. The difference is in the writing style. Kenneth John Atchity could write about any topic and he would be worth of reading, so beautiful is his mastery of the English language!
Grady Harp, February 2013
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Out of the depths
Over the past dozen years of diving on-site in the ancient harbor in Israel, Emily had explored and uncovered many of Caesarea’s underwater ruins.
But the Roman shipwreck into which her crew was now diving lay farther out in the open water of the south bay. Out here they were exposed to the strong offshore currents of the eastern Mediterranean. These far-reaching flows, reinforced by winds from the mountains in Sinai, carried huge quantities of sand and mud that severely clouded the water.
Emily was now cutting through these currents as she finned her way toward the bottom. With the storm moving in, the water was more turbulent than ever. Visibility was little more than six feet. She followed the snaking tube of the vacuum pump, which led from the barge to the bottom and could be relied upon to guide her to her divers.
Today it didn’t. When she reached the bottom at sixty feet, there was no sign of divers—just the open end of the dangling tube.
Emily scanned the area around her. The water was thick with swirls of silt. With the sun obscured by gathering clouds, the light was unusually dim for this depth. Below her, a deeply rotted timber protruded from the sand. It was one of the many surviving ribs of the ancient Roman merchant ship, a 130-foot-long vessel from the first century A.D. The ship, like so many before and after it, had crashed into offshore rocks and never made it out of the harbor. Emily now wondered if it had run into a sudden storm like the one that was closing in on her team. If a squall in these seas could destroy a Roman trader, what havoc would it wreak on her ramshackle barge? Had circumstances like these sealed the fate of her mother? She could only hope the barge would still be there when they returned to the surface.
Emily had to locate her students quickly. Gliding over the skeletal remains of the wreck, she moved through the murky water as if through a kind of fog, her eyes straining to make out any specific semblance of form—the burst of bubbles from a regulator, the shiny glint of a tank. She saw nothing. Beyond the ribbed rows of the shipwreck’s hull passing like railroad ties beneath her, she could make out only the occasional thresher shark flitting past, and the bright orange gridline cords that marked the extent of their excavation.
In the few weeks they’d been working on the wreck, Emily and her team had uncovered a variety of artifacts: hundreds of amphora shards encrusted by coral and corrosion, various scraps of the ship’s iron fittings, and several more unusual pieces, including an olive oil lamp with a bas-relief eagle, a bronze key worn as a ring, even a number of small bronze coins, produced by the famous mint in ancient Caesarea. Loaded by the hundreds into the belly of the ship and carried to and from all corners of the empire, the amphorae had been filled with oil, wine, and grains.
Every scrap of pottery the diving team recovered, every bit of bronze and iron they might find, would be cleaned and recorded, photographed and catalogued, then sent on to the University of Haifa for further study and research. The excavating, though laborious and difficult, was easily the most exciting part of the archaeological process: it quickly became addictive. Emily was not surprised her students were progressively obsessed. It was easy, when absorbed in the hunt, to forget about dwindling air, or changes in the current, or the weather up top. Prying loose another prize became the only thing that mattered.
The water toward the stern of the wreck was thick with a nearly impenetrable murk. Emily moved slowly through it, feeling her way over the timbers and the grid. The oldest artifact they’d found in the bay was a stone anchor dating from the Bronze Age, some 3200 years ago. In the thirty-two centuries that had passed since then, hundreds of ships had sunk in these seas, thousands of sailors had drowned. She was now swimming through the murky sea dust of their bones.
Emily felt claustrophobic. Her breathing rate increased. The raucous babble of bubbles kept bursting past her ears. What had happened to Harel and David? Why hadn’t they surfaced? How could they be working in this swirling stew of silt?
A fin smacked her face. Emily pulled back as water leaked into her mask. She quickly readjusted it and blew the water out. The salt stung her eyes. She blinked until they cleared.
David was staring at her wide-eyed through his mask. He held up his hands and shrugged an innocent apology. She wanted to throttle him. Instead she pointed angrily at her watch and jerked a thumbs-up toward the surface. David pointed his thumb over his shoulder and shrugged again. “Not my fault,” he seemed to be saying.
She could have guessed as much. Harel was indeed the problem. He was the one keeping them down.
Emily pushed David aside and looked to see what Harel was doing. Difficult to tell in the murk, but he appeared to be down under the ribs of the wreck, stirring up a muddy mess. She could just make out the back of his tank and a rising burst of bubbles. She swam down into the storm of silt and tugged his buoyancy vest. Harel turned his bearded face up, looked at her a moment, then turned back to his work.
Emily fumed. She glanced across at David, who simply waited and watched, wondering what she would do. She grabbed hold of Harel’s vest and tried to pull him out of the pit. Finally he swam up and confronted her. He had a chisel in one hand and a pry bar in the other. His size was daunting. He was built like an American football lineman, with a hairy chest, strong broad shoulders, a long heavy frame, and meaty arms and hands. Although he was a few years younger than Emily, somehow he always seemed older.
But certainly not wiser, despite his inflated opinion of himself. She waved her thumb toward the surface, made a gesture with her hand indicating stormy seas above, then pointed her index finger at his chest and again jerked her thumb toward the surface.
Harel shook his head.
She couldn’t believe it. Was he going to defy her order? Did he intend to drown in the storm?
She took hold of his vest again as if to haul him up. Harel pulled her hand away and started back into the pit. Emily grabbed the top of his tank. He continued pulling away, nearly taking her down with him.
Finally he came back to her again. Still holding the chisel and pry bar, he held her shoulders between his hands and looked at her intently. Then he shifted his tools to one hand, formed a fist with the other and clutched it to his chest. He seemed to be saying he must continue, that whatever it was he’d found down there, he couldn’t go up without.
No artifact, no matter how rare or precious, was worth risking their lives. That was standard operating procedure. If they didn’t ascend to the platform now, they might well end up drowning. She shook her head, repeated the wavy gesture. She looked to David and back to Harel, and pointed insistently to the surface.
David put a hand on Harel’s shoulder and nodded his agreement. Harel looked at him, and then back at Emily. Finally, he gave in. He handed her the chisel and pry bar. “It’s your decision,” he seemed to say, and then started up toward the surface. David followed after him.
Emily looked at the tools in her hands. What had he been working on? What was it that couldn’t wait? Was he afraid it would be lost again in all this effluvium? Was it possible the storm currents would wash the find away?
It would take the two students several minutes to prepare for their departure and to load the Zodiac. Enough time, Emily decided, for her to take a quick look.
She swam down into the pit. The light in here was dimmer and the water even murkier. She felt her way down along the rib of the hull until she reached the bottom. Harel had left his underwater light half-buried in the sand. Its beam was pointed at a crack in the hull frame, where the encrusted shell of a bronze krater vase had deeply embedded itself.
Emily examined it closely.
The krater was coarse with corrosion and covered with a thin veneer of copper carbonates known as verdigris—the result of centuries of reaction to sea salt. The corrosion had almost eaten through the metal in places, but other than that there seemed to be nothing unusual about the oversized wine urn. She picked up the flashlight and aimed it more directly into the vase, moving her face within inches of its surface. The light was flickering—low battery—and it took her several seconds of study before she finally saw the source of Harel’s obsession.
Encased in the lime deposits on the exterior surface of the krater like some sort of flagrantly tasteless ornament, it was partly disguised, like the bronze itself, under the patina of verdigris. The coin was not bronze, not silver, not even copper or a copper alloy.
It was gold.
Her pulse was racing. She could barely contain herself. All thoughts of the oncoming storm, of her ascending companions, of the terrible danger they were in—all of it vanished.
All she could see was the coin, cleverly mounted in an envelope of bronze—as though to conceal it for safekeeping.
The Augustan aureus. Isaac’s Holy Grail.
Never released for common circulation, used only by administrators, or bankers, or the wealthiest Roman merchants, aurei were the rarest of the rare even in their own time. Supposedly only one thousand were struck in the Judean mint, most of those sent in tribute to Augustus Caesar in Rome.
Never seen by a human being alive today. The stuff of legends. The stuff of her mother’s dreams as well as her own. I dedicate this find to you, Mom, she thought. It wasn’t the elemental gold that bewitched her, though that was certainly a part of it. Nor was it the fame of the coin itself, or her mentor’s quest to find it. Rather it was the coin’s imprint, the bas-relief profile of a man’s head where the emperor’s portrait should be.
Emily couldn’t take her eyes from it.
This ruler was bearded—and was wearing a crown of thorns.
She stared hard at the golden disc and willed it to tell her its story.