On a hill overlooking the Aegean Sea in Turkey, an international team of archeologists discovers a stone box that first-century Jews used to rebury their dead. The box’s Aramaic inscription: Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. Sophia Altay, the beautiful French-Turkish archeologist who heads the team, tries to keep the discovery secret until she can authenticate the ossuary. She knows that people will kill to obtain the relics—and to suppress the box’s other contents, documents that could alter Western history.
Joseph Travers, an American sent to Turkey to evaluate the archeological dig, soon finds himself pulled into the web of betrayal, reprisal, and violence. In his journey through Istanbul’s mosques and palaces, the archeological sites around ancient Ephesus, and, ultimately, the strange and mystical terrain of Cappadocia, he comes to understand the epochal meaning of the bone box.
The Bone Box: Jay Amberg
Within this novel there are many conflicts not just the one faced by archeologist Sophia Altay. Altay finds with the help of her assistants an ossuary that within it has relics and documents that date back to early Christianity and could change our understanding if what is written on these documents is revealed. But, as the story opens Joe Travers is being sent to assess the dig, find out what is really happening there and possibly be told to terminate Sophia’s reign as director of the dig. The search for the contents of the ossuary, which was hidden by her assistant, sets the tone for this novel. Abrahim her assistant follows her every guideline and what is uncovered would change his life and others too.
The author describes each scene in a very different manner as the reader can feel the heat, the warmth, and the depth of the places that each character visits or explores. Each time Joe Travers enters a sacred place, or takes a tour of specific area or visits a site, you can feel the tension, taste the soil that covers his body at times and see the sweat dripping from his face as he faces off with many foes. Being sent to visit this archaeological site, to assess the director and her work, representation a foundation, he is drawn into a deadly conflict that not only endangers his life that of others but the end result would change history too. Leopold Kirchburg is a dangerous man and the Austrian project director who feels above it all. Charles Lee represents the foundation and provides the necessary funds. Together they are toxic. Finding this ossuary and uncovering the relics and documents within it are the primary focus of the novel but when the scripts are revealed and the reader is privy to what is on these documents changes in our understanding of early Christianity will take place. So, why did Sophia Altay hide the ossuary and bury it? Why did she hand Travers a flash drive with specific orders as to who gets the information and why? What happens when someone attacks him and takes the drive? Hidden are the contents that were buried by her assistant Abrahim. Learning what was written puts things in a different light as one man is murdered and another finds his life unbalanced.
As Travers reads the words that were inscribed a decision is made to reveal the contents, the documents and the relics to the public but not before the police about the death of the driver interrogates him. From Istanbul to the sites around Ephesus, Cappadocia and the dig itself in Saint John’s Gate, this story encompasses the depth and breath of the meaning of the bone box. As the lid is pushed open and the contents are revealed, the stale air rises and the man stares into the box. Imagine the site and imagine his fears. Trying to calm himself and yet understand what he has witnessed one man is blinded by the light that rises from the ossuary.
Working for the Glavine Foundation Joe was instructed by Sophia to make sure the flash drive was sent to William Sr. and no one else. But, someone knew of his plans, he was mugged, beaten and the drive was stolen. Memories of the past flooded into his mind as he wanted to speak with his son Tom, tell his what he has found and learned before hearing about it on the news. Thinking about his ex-wife, his son that he lost and Christine, reminded him of something he read when looking at the documents which brings both the message within the ossuary and his struggle connected in a special way: “ Only love has made me whole again, .: John the Apostle said: I have come to love my neighbor and my enemy. When you learn the truth about who is behind the murders, why and his kidnappings, beatings and more you will realize just how this statement comes into play and why it is so true. Meeting a reporter and wanting to share what he learned the author through Travers reveals what is in both documents: the first he states was, “apparently dictated by Jesus of Nazareth shortly before he died.” The second document, “ a letter written by Saint John the Apostle in Ephesus, dates from decades later. ……I believe that people…” he pauses, around the world and of all faiths will find the documents meaningful.”
Within the pages of chapter 57 you can understand the strife, grief and torment that Abrahim is enduring and the fact that he played a part in the murder of someone close to him. With Monuglu following his every move and standing near him when focusing in on the press, Joe has many difficult decisions to make and realizes just who he can trust and who is behind what has been happening to him and to others. Why was Kenan Sirhan killed and just what part did Kirchburg have in it and who decided to take out the man that mugged and beat Joe: Schmidt? Why were they blaming it on Abrahim? What did Kenan do to sell out Altay? A press conference would be the beginning of he ending and what will the fate of the ossuary be? Will the documents and its contents be revealed? Will they remain buried and hidden? Why does Sophia think Joe betrayed her? The ossuary contains human remains and documents. Kenan Sirhan was killed at the site by a man named Gunter Schmidt and then was murdered by someone close to the situation to cover up his part in the conspiracy. Why does Joe decide to be the intermediary for the project and to allow the world to know what was found? What impact will it have? An ossuary is a place or receptacle for the bones of the dead. They are used in the Orthodox Church. “ The remains of an Orthodox Christina are treated with special reverence, in conformity with the biblical teachings that the body of a believer is a “temple of the Holy Spirit,” ( I Corinthians, etc.) having been sanctified and transfigured by Baptism, Holy Communion and the participation in the mystical life of the Church. In Orthodox monasteries, when one of the brethren dies, his remains are buried (for details, see Christian burial) for one to three years, and then disinterred, cleaned and gathered into the monastery’s charnel house.” Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:JamesOssuary-1-.jpg
An ending that will mystify, entrance, enthrall and captive readers and audiences when the final outcome is revealed, the final fate of the ossuary determined and one young man’s hope for a life lies in the hands of those who would rather bury him because he is different. Prejudice, betrayals, deceit, lies and a plot to hide the truth are just some of the issues that the author brings to light but most of all what happens when you lose faith within yourself, need to find a reason to live and learn the true meaning and significance of The Bone Box.
These are my thoughts and they stand as written. “ Boys face glistens and shines when he catches light from the garden window. Hope is sometimes just beam away.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews / MJ Magazine
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jay Amberg is the author of eleven books. He received a BA from Georgetown University and a PhD from Northwestern University. He has taught high school and college students since 1972.
His latest book, Bone Box, is now available from Amika Press. Amberg has also published Cycle, America’s Fool, Whale Song, and compiled 52 Poems for Men.
Prior to Amika Press, Amberg published thriller novels Doubloon (Forge), Blackbird Singing (Forge) and Deep Gold (Warner Books).
Among his books on teaching are School Smarts and The Study Skills Handbook, published by Good Year. Amberg wrote The Creative Writing Handbook (Good Year) with Mark Henry Larson and Verbal Review and Workbook for the SAT (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich) with Robert S Boone.