The Book of Names
by Jill Gregory, Karen Tintori
St. Martin's Press (January 9, 2007)
According to Jewish tradition, each generation produces 36 righteous souls who hold up the universe. In this page-turner, a Gnostic group that wants the world to end, thus defeating God and paving the way for their own spiritual ascension, has murdered 33 of the 36.
Ever since he was involved in a childhood accident, David Shepherd has been compulsively writing down names. When he learns through a kabbalistic rabbi that he is the keeper of the names of righteous souls (and realizes that his stepdaughter is one of them), he finds himself in the middle of a nightmare filled with killings, natural disasters, and the knowledge that the fate of the world in his hands. Coauthors Gregory and Tintori use the now-common Da Vinci Code formula of short chapters and steadily building suspense, but their intriguing premise--also behind Sam Bourne's The Righteous Men (2006)--helps separate this tale from garden-variety religious thrillers. And where others have tried and usually failed, the authors give succinct explanations of the principles of kabbalah and Gnosticism, both complex and often misunderstood.
Even readers not yet sated with apocalyptic thrillers may be disappointed by Gregory and Tintori's first collaborative novel, which attempts to use the Jewish tradition of the Lamed-Vovniks, the 36 pure souls whose existence protects all of humanity, as the catalyst for a Da Vinci Code–like plot. Georgetown University professor David Shepherd, who routinely rubs elbows with the high and mighty, finds himself haunted by strange images of names.
When an old friend's suggestion leads him to a rabbi in Brooklyn, Shepherd learns that the rabbi possesses an ancient biblical gemstone linked to the Lamed-Vovniks, and that a mysterious cabal has been systematically killing those righteous figures to usher in a new satanic age. Thin characterizations, rampant clichés and unlikely action sequences make for a less than satisfying read. Under the pseudonym Jillian Karr, the authors have written two suspense novels, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, which was made into a CBS-TV movie, and Catch Me if You Can.