The Fifth Gospel by Ian Cladwell

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The Fifth Gospel

by Ian Caldwell

published by Simon & Schuster

March 2015


This is the new book from the author of The Rule of Four, which I know I read, and know I really liked, but I cannot for the life of me remember anything about it.  The Fifth Gospel is the second novel by the author and it was ten years in the making.  It has been compared to The Name of the Rose and The DaVinci Code, which I think puts a lot of pressure on it and the author.  That being said, it is a good book that doesn’t exactly live up to the crazy hype.  I enjoyed it and would recommend it, but nothing much beyond that.  If you look at other reviews though, most either absolutely love it or loathe it.

What I found really interesting was learning that there is a sect of Catholics that I didn’t not know existed- Eastern Catholics.  This is a little know group of Greek Catholics that follow the Roman Catholic Church rather than the Eastern Orthodox Church.  I also loved the in depth description of life inside Vatican City, and the division between both Catholic Churches.

The story centers on two brothers- the Roman Catholic priest Simon and Eastern Catholic priest Alex.   Eastern priests are allowed to marry, as long as they do so before they are ordained.  Alex did, though his wife has left him alone with his young sone for some years now.  Alex becomes embroiled in a mystery  that revolves around the Shroud of Turin and the Diatessaron, an ancient text, and unveils the secrets and intrigues of the history of the church and its four Gospels.

I loved the glimpse in life in the vatican, and the study of the gospels, but I think it became a little too overwhelming.


In 2004, as Pope John Paul’s reign enters its twilight, a mysterious exhibit is under construction at the Vatican Museums. A week before it is scheduled to open, its curator is murdered at a clandestine meeting on the outskirts of Rome. The same night, a violent break-in rocks the home of the curator’s research partner, Father Alex Andreou, a married Greek Catholic priest who lives inside the Vatican with his five-year-old son. 

When the papal police fail to identify a suspect in the robbery, Father Alex, desperate to keep his family safe, undertakes his own investigation into both crimes. His only hope of finding the killer is to reconstruct the dead curator’s final secret: what the four Christian gospels—and a little-known, true-to-life fifth gospel named the Diatessaron—reveal about the Church’s most controversial holy relic. But just as he begins to understand the truth about his friend’s death, a secretive tribunal is convened to try the murder—and when Father Alex learns the identity of the accused, he is devastated. Now he must navigate the ancient and perilous legal system of the Catholic Church, which offers no presumption of innocence, no jury, and no right to face one’s accuser. As evidence vanishes and witnesses refuse to testify, Father Alex realizes the system is controlled by someone with vested stakes in the exhibit—someone he must outwit to survive.

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