Ronald Cutler’s The Secret Scroll is deceptive. . . here’s how. First, it seems to be just a light and fluffy little read about archeaology in the Middle East, maybe with a little intrigue thrown in. I thought it was going to be something I didn’t get invested in – something that could wait until summer. I was wrong.

This book is one of those – you know the kind – that once you start reading you can’t stop. Now, I’ll be truthful – the book isn’t gripping because the writing is beautiful or the characters that well-developed (in fact, character development is one of it’s major weaknesses). Instead, the book just has a great plot that you can get invested in simply because it involves deception, and history, and let’s not forget the secret cults.

Cutler’s novel is set in present-day Israel and begins with the main character, Josh Cohan, finding a scroll from the first century (i.e. Jesus’ time) that he believes to have been written by Jesus himself (don’t worry – I’m not giving much away – all that happens in the first couple of chapters). The rest of the book is the unfolding of the authentication of the scroll along with a complicated web of personnel who feel conflicted about what the scroll might do to their own religious faiths.

Cutler has done his research and ties in bits of history throughout the book – tiny tidbits that will come in handy if I’m ever on Jeopardy at some point in my life. And these morsels add a bit of depth and energy to the novel.

As I said, the book does have some weaknesses. For one, there are these bits of Josh’s character, like the fact that he can see visions when he meditates, that aren’t fully explored psychologically. And then there’s the romance that erupts with Josh and a lovely lady – that relationship seems a bit forced and undeveloped. Finally, Cutler just don’t have the prowess, yet (this is first novel), to help flesh out characters fully enough that they don’t bleed into one another.

That said, if you’re looking for a great read that’s both captivating and fun, I recommend this one. Thanks to Lisa Roe for putting me on to it.

In other news, I did not get into the Albee Foundation Residency; I got the letter yesterday. It seems this week will be the week of disappointment. But I am, thanks to Laraine Herring, looking into a workshop with her at EOmega this summer.

Other ReviewsJulie at Booking Mama.