I really do enjoy historical fiction, and this is a good example of why. Once again Berry combines lots of real people, places and things with a bit of imagination and comes up with a compelling story.
In this one, he imagines that Christopher Columbus, the one we have the holiday in October for, is a Jew. And his travels to the New World are really motivated by a search for a place where the Jewish people can live in peace. He is tasked with taking precious Jewish artifacts out of the reach of the Inquisition and finding a new haven for them. He accomplishes this pretty well. The Jews find a haven in Jamaica for over 100 years and the treasure for even longer.
After hiding the treasure, Columbus chooses one man to guard over it, The Levite. This man is to allow only one other to know the secret location. For some five centuries, the secret is kept safe and the treasure remains secure. The location known to only one man at a time, the information passed on as the current keeper nears the time of his death.
In the current time, the Levite develops a problem. His son has renounced his religion and heritage, and therefore cannot be a fit guardian. So the Levite takes the secret, literally, to his grave. He has his granddaughter who is the executer of his estate bury him with a package. In the package is the secret that he could not pass down to his son.
Israeli radicals determine who the Levite was, and realize he was buried with this package despite it being against orthodox Jewish rules. They develop a plan to retrieve the package, and then the treasure. They plan to return the treasure to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem from whence it was removed millennia ago. And, they hope the return of these items to this sacred location will arouse the Jewish people to a war with the Islamic peoples who now control the location.
The characters travel all over the globe, plans are created and thwarted and altered. Many forces are in play and no one is who they seem. The treasure is finally found, but only the new Levite controls its destiny.
I enjoyed this one. At times I was uncertain who was a good guy and who was a bad guy. And, in the end it became clear that many people were a little of each. It’s always fun to read the afterward to see exactly which parts of the story are real, which are theory or myth and which came straight out of the author’s imagination.