Historical Fiction

The Holy Conspiracy

By

This book will launch on Oct 20, 2020. Currently, only those with the link can see it. 🔒

Worth reading 😎

After the departure of their presumptive leader, early Christian disciples move to spread The Word effectively, with some spinning delivery!

Synopsis

Erased from history—how Jesus’s brother led the disciples in a war of faith against the Apostle Paul.

Haunted by the brutal execution of Jesus, his brother Yakov dwells in constant fear of persecution in lakeside Galilee where the Romans rule with bloodstained hands. When the other disciples elect him as their new leader, Mary Magdalen suggests that they form a secret society in the shadows of the Jerusalem Temple.

One day, an affluent tentmaker from Tarsus named Saul approaches Yakov with a wild tale of Jesus having risen from the dead as the long-awaited Messiah. The disciples protest: their beloved Jesus was a humble teacher, not a god. And they saw him die, they even entombed his body. When Saul scoffs at their objections and insists that only his version of Jesus as the Savior is true, a bitter battle of faith ensues. But how can the disciples keep Jesus’s credo of oneness with God alive in a world where the rich and powerful always prevail?

Spanning three decades, against a backdrop of increasingly violent Roman rule, THE HOLY CONSPIRACY is a tour de force of love and faith, arrogance and humility from one of our most inspirational new authors.

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and Kristi Saare Duarte for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.


Looking to expand my reading parameters, I chose this interesting piece of historical fiction by Kristi Saare Duarte that explores early Christianity. While the subject matter may not be for everyone (and could offend those who are staunchly religious and hold firm to what they are told from the pulpit), this is an eye-opening interpretation of events from a woman who admits to not being deeply religious. The book opens the months after Yeshua (Jesus) has left the earth, leaving the disciples to determine how to continue the ministry. Yakov is Yeshua’s brother and has taken on the role of leading the group, in hopes of spreading the Good News and keeping the movement afloat. While he is surrounded by others who strongly believed in Yeshua, the group politic is anything but passive. Included in the collective is Miriamne, Yeshua's wife and the woman carrying his son. Her presence, much as it was during the early year of the ministry, is controversial and puts a strain on how to proceed. Much of the book explores the connection between Miriamne and Yakov, especially with the custom of the latter taking the former into the household going forward. As the years pass, the group encounters Saul of Tarsus (Apostle Paul), who speaks of a revelation he had along the road and how he is now ready to preach the Good News as it was relayed to him by Yeshua. This causes a great deal of strain, as the disciples and Saul (renamed Paulus) speak of different forms of Christianity. Both feel they know ‘the True Word’ and the clashes are by no means minor. As the years progress, the reader can see how these messages serve as shepherding acts to plant the early roots of Christianity. Yakov must make some tough choices as to how he wants his brother’s legacy upheld, while Paulus feels his power of the written word will surely expand the grassroots movement. A telling piece that allows Duarte to offer the reader some of the early nuances in differing Christian messaging, without seeming too blasphemous. Recommended to those who enjoy Christian fiction, as well as the reader whose mind remains open and intrigued about what might have happened in the early, post-Jesus days.


I will be the first to admit that when I saw ‘conspiracy’ in the title, I expected something a lot more suspenseful and likely scandalous. That said, I kept as open a mind as I could when reading the novel and came out of the experience better for it. Kristi Saare Duarte provides the reader with a great piece of writing that highlights some of the key events in the early years of Christianity, including its struggles to get a message to the people. The core group of characters were well represented and the reader who has some background knowledge of them from their own religious education will likely enjoy what’s Duarte has done here. Of greatest interest to me was the representation of Miriamne (Mary Magdalen) as the wife of Yeshua, going so far as to depict her as being with child. While this will likely ruffle the feathers of some, the character fits in perfectly with some of the larger messages. Equally interesting is the depiction of Saul (Paulus) and how he took his own approach to how Christianity would develop. Duarte offers some interesting questions as she writes, leaving the reader to wonder which path might be the most accurate, based on where things stand today. The story is slow, let’s be perfectly honest here. There is little action or suspense, as it flirts with the line of non-fiction in its accounting. However, I am sure Duarte was going for the historical depiction over swords and violent clashes angle in her writing. I struggled at times, looking for a spark, but was happy to pull out some tidbits of historical interpretations on which I could feast as I digested much of what I read. A fair warning (and another struggle of mine) is that Duarte seeks to keep things as authentic as possible by using Aramaic versions of names, not the traditional ones many readers of the Bible may know. While this is a useful brain exercise (there is a reference sheet at the start), it was an added thinking process as I read, keeping everyone straight and remembering what I learned in my past education to match up with this. Still, Duarte did an amazing job in her final product. The amount of research that surely went into this piece is amazing and allows the reader to bask in some of the early years with a degree of confidence that things are not bastardised to meet a certain plot point. Perfect for the open minded reader who is interested in some of the early forks in the road, before the Catholic Church came in and set out their own decrees. I gave it my best and hope I did the book justice with this review!


Kudos, Madam Duarte, for not being afraid to rock the boat a little. I may have to look into some of your other work, as there were some intriguing moments for me during this read!

Reviewed by

I love to read and review all sorts of books. My passion is crime and thrillers, but there are so many other genres that pique my attention.

While I am not a full-time reader, I try to dedicate as much time to my passion as possible, as can be seen on my blog and Goodreads.

Synopsis

Erased from history—how Jesus’s brother led the disciples in a war of faith against the Apostle Paul.

Haunted by the brutal execution of Jesus, his brother Yakov dwells in constant fear of persecution in lakeside Galilee where the Romans rule with bloodstained hands. When the other disciples elect him as their new leader, Mary Magdalen suggests that they form a secret society in the shadows of the Jerusalem Temple.

One day, an affluent tentmaker from Tarsus named Saul approaches Yakov with a wild tale of Jesus having risen from the dead as the long-awaited Messiah. The disciples protest: their beloved Jesus was a humble teacher, not a god. And they saw him die, they even entombed his body. When Saul scoffs at their objections and insists that only his version of Jesus as the Savior is true, a bitter battle of faith ensues. But how can the disciples keep Jesus’s credo of oneness with God alive in a world where the rich and powerful always prevail?

Spanning three decades, against a backdrop of increasingly violent Roman rule, THE HOLY CONSPIRACY is a tour de force of love and faith, arrogance and humility from one of our most inspirational new authors.

Capernaum, Galilee, AD 30

The executioner slammed a nail into Yeshua’s wrist. Streams of scarlet blood drove rivers down the crossbeam and dripped onto the moistened soil. All around him, women wailed, called out for mercy, and pleaded for God to save the innocent from their brutal punishments, while the temple priest nodded for the executioners to continue. And they did, as if merely completing another mundane task before returning home to their wives and a hot meal, oblivious of the onset of Pesach at dusk. When the soldiers raised the cross, Yeshua’s body slumped forward, forever pinned to its prison of injustice.

Yakov steadied his hands on the workbench and jerked his head to chase the memory away. Strands of his tousled brown hair got caught in his mouth, and with a sigh of frustration, he swept them back. Six new moons had come and gone since his brother’s execution, but fear still consumed him like a droning mosquito, refusing to give in.

He blinked to regain focus in the soft light of sunset that filtered through the open window and painted his carpentry workshop with strokes of gold: the bench littered with tools, the half-finished doors leaning against a wall, the stack of wooden planks piled up in the back. Even the rusted metal parts of the saw and the plane glistened when caught in the amber rays.

His mother had thrown herself at the executioners’ feet, begging them to release her son. But they had kicked her away.

A shiver snaked up his spine. He mustn’t think about the past. What good would it do? Instead, he returned his focus to the chisel in his hand and pressed the tool into the grain of the oak plank that formed the back of a chair.

But how could he ever forget? He could still hear Yeshua’s voice asking Yahweh to forgive them all before his chin had dropped to his chest, he had closed his eyes, and just like that, he was gone.

Yakov’s cheeks stung with shame. Here he was, safe and sound—and, most importantly, alive!—while his brother’s corpse lay rotting in a rock-cut tomb in the hills of Jerusalem. He should have protected his brother, fought off the soldiers when they came to arrest him. Instead, Yakov and the other disciples had scattered like frightened salamanders, running for their lives. But what could he have done? His fists wouldn’t even have left a dent on the Romans’ shields. They all would have ended up dead.

Despite the weight in his chest, a ray of pride warmed Yakov’s heart when he stepped back to look at his work. The carved flowers that formed the backrest of the chair were exquisite. A work inspired by God. His customer, the Roman prefect, would not be disappointed. And his wife, Michal, would gleam with appreciation when he presented her with a leather purse heavy with denarii.

A knock on the door interrupted his musings.

Yakov stared at the door, heart thumping. Who would visit his workshop at this hour? He quickly blew out the flame of the oil lamp and slumped against the back wall. Panic rose in his throat. Had Herod’s men finally found him? But what could he have done to arouse their suspicions? He hadn’t spoken of Yeshua. Hadn’t met with the other disciples. How had they found him? Had they finally arrived in Galilee to finish them all off?

Another knock, this time more demanding.

Yakov buried his face in his hands and wished they would go away.

“Come on, open up. I know you’re there.”

Yakov peeked at the door through his fingers. He knew that voice: Kephas, one of Yeshua’s disciples. Heart still pounding, he rose from his seat and approached the door. But then he stopped short, yanked back by the memory of the last time he had seen his friend.

“We’ve got to talk,” Kephas said through the door.

No. They didn’t need to talk. What was in the past was in the past. No need to dig up old issues, tear open wounds that had already scarred. Place themselves in the path of danger.

“Stop pretending. I heard you.”

“Go away,” Yakov whispered. “My hands are full…”

“Just open the door. I will claim only a moment of your time.”

Resigned, Yakov unbolted the door and pulled it open. Outside, the red-cheeked Kephas leaned one hand against the wall. He tugged at his ginger beard with his calloused fingers. “Yakov, be good. We can’t keep pretending nothing happened.”

Yakov couldn’t even look at him. He shouldn’t have opened the door. “Nothing happened.” He paused. “I mean, I can’t…”

“We’re all meeting at my house tonight, after supper.”

“We? Who are we? I’m sorry, I’m busy. I have to finish this chair, a table. Tomorrow a customer is coming to collect a door, and I…”

“All of us. Andreas, Bar-Tôlmay, Phillipos, Levi…”

This can’t be happening.

“… Tau’ma, Barzebedee, Shimon.” Kephas listed the names of one disciple after another. “Taddai, too.”

Yakov’s hands twitched. Panic pulsed through his body. “Not Taddai. You can’t have my son.”

“Taddai’s a grown man. He will do as he pleases.”

“And Yudah?” Yakov asked. He stared provocatively at his friend. “Have you called upon him, too?”

“No.”

All of us means Yudah, too. If he’s not there—”

Kephas’s smile dwindled. “No, my friend, not Yudah. We don’t know, we still haven’t… Nobody’s heard a word.”

Yakov looked at his hands and saw they were shaking. He grabbed on to the edges of the workbench to still them.

That fateful day, he had dragged the bruised and bleeding Yudah away from the other disciples, who were kicking him senseless. In the moment of terror and despair, they had forgotten that Yeshua had beseeched them to forgive the man who would betray him. Yudah had loved Yeshua more than life. He would never have betrayed Yeshua of his own accord. He was only doing Yeshua’s will. But where was Yudah now? Yakov hadn’t seen him since he’d left him to the care of an innkeeper in Bethania. When Yakov returned a few days later to collect him, Yudah had disappeared.

“So you will come?” Kephas said.

Yakov shook his head. Nothing good could come from this.

Kephas placed his hand on Yakov’s shoulder, as if to transmit some comfort that Yakov didn’t need. Didn’t want.

“You’ll come, Yakov. Yeshua chose you.”

“Ha, you know my brother: he was full of antics, and…” Yakov swallowed to keep the bile down that was threatening to erupt. “Look, he spoke out of jest. I could never…”

Kephas didn’t seem to hear him. “After supper. My house. Be there.”

As soon as Kephas disappeared around the corner, Yakov’s knees buckled and he sank to the floor.

They were going to trap him.


About the author

Kristi Saare Duarte is the award-winning author of spiritual novels THE TRANSMIGRANT and THE HOLY CONSPIRACY. She developed her expertise on the lives of Jesus and his disciples by studying ancient scrolls, historical scriptures, including the Nag Hammadi Library, and research by biblical scholars. view profile

Published on September 16, 2020

Published by Conspicuum Press

80000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Historical Fiction

Reviewed by

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