Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 3.00.51 PMChristians have great faith in belief. According to a Pew poll in 2010 a full 41 percent of Americans and 58 percent of white evangelical Christians not only believe in Jesus Christ, but think Christ will return to earth by 2050. The question, “what’s keeping him (or her)?” evidently wasn’t asked.

Pretty much everything that’s gone wrong in the world, whether it was the sinking of the Titanic or 9/11, Christians say is God’s punishment for our wicked ways. We could just snicker except politicians of all stripes embrace this evangelical apocalypticism to ramp up the size of government. Even conservative hero Ronald Reagan told televangelist Jim Bakker, “we may be the generation that sees Armageddon.”

Critical thinking must go out the window on Sunday mornings. These tall tales keep the gospel wrapped tightly around the flag in order to be wagged like a schoolmarm’s forefinger in our faces by right wingers.

But imagine for a moment that besides the Good Book, the one that’s in most hotel rooms (The Pensacola Margaritaville Hotel offered Jimmy Buffett’s Tales from Margaritaville:Fictional Facts and Factual Fictions bedside when I stayed there), there is another book; one concealed all these years by dark forces intent on maintaining the status quo of apocalyptic ignorance.

Even those who only brush up against religion on Christmas and Easter know the story. The Virgin Mary, the three kings, Jesus suffered on the cross for our sins, rose from the dead to save our souls. How could anyone possibly dispute that series of events? Actually, it turns out a few people have called the entire scheme into question.

Which brings us to Vin Suprynowicz’s new novel The Testament of James a book the Bible Belt will not likely embrace.

A book store is not the typical setting for a mystery, but it’s a natural for an author in that business. One reviewer thought store owner Matthew Hunter’s negotiations with obnoxious customers “slows down the action,” but those interactions make the setting and characters real and interesting. After all, a bookstore in sleepy Providence, Rhode Island is not burdened (or shouldn’t be) with action beyond nerdy types shuffling in, picking out books, paying for them, and leaving without fanfare or incident.  I should disclose I’ve heard most of these rants over various cuisine way, way off the Las Vegas Strip through the years.

And by the way, Testament’s pace is anything but slow, proceeding like clever dinner conversation amongst your brightest friends.

Describing business, whether it’s bookselling or bond markets, isn’t easy, but is fascinating to read when done well. Suprynowicz has been crafting stories, true and otherwise, for over 40 years, most recently as the libertarian voice of the Las Vegas Review Journal editorial page. He does it well. Also, peddling used books has a treasure hunt side that is particularly interesting for us bibliophiles and is made part of not only Testament’s plotline, but is included in many of book’s business anecdotes.

The treasure in question is not an autographed copy of Wolfman Jack’s Have Mercy! but an ancient manuscript written (or not) by James the Just, oldest brother of Jesus of Nazareth.  Shadowy characters a plenty descend upon Books on Benefit after its manager dies under curious circumstances.

These men are looking to buy the work of James which might explain how his brother faked his own death on the cross, how the divine Gentile Christ was switched for the human Jewish Jesus, and the religion of Paul displaced that of Jesus, among other things. You can understand why this sort of knowledge should not be made public.

Notice I wrote “looking to buy.” Suprynowicz never strays far from the capitalistic pursuits of profit and loss. The characters may be dodgy, but they look to deal, more or less, honorably for the James tome (if it exists) and heated negotiations about present value and risk ensue.

Testament isn’t all business and religion. Matthew Hunter has a love interest and partner in Chantel Stevens, characters who will continue their book sleuthing heroics in future installments. There’s psilocybin use and cats with names like Mr. Cuddles and Tabbyhunter providing clues to impending danger.  Plus, notes and a bibliography are provided for outraged believers demanding references.

As a new presidential election nears with more blather about God, country, and other nonsense, The Testament of James is a quick, entertaining read to either remind you you’re not crazy, or start you on a journey to truth and enlightenment.

Click here to buy limited edition, signed, hardcover editions of Testament.