I began THE COPPER SCROLL with high expectations because of my past experiences with Joel C. Rosenberg's books. He didn't disappoint. From the opening scene I was captivated by a political thriller almost lifted from the pages of today's Middle East news.
Marcus Santini, an FBI agent with the counter-terrorism division, thinks he spots a man on their watch list and follows him. During the pursuit, he receives a series of photos and positively identifies the terrorist while riding a train in Washington, D.C. But Santini's phone battery dies before he can give his specific location. Following on foot, the agent tries to detain him, but the subject in question disappears into the crowd. A short time later, the terrorist heists a van and drives it into the Willard Hotel near the White House. The explosion is deafening and kills a couple of people in the lobby, including George Murray, the chief archeologist for the Smithsonian Institution. Later in the story, readers learn that Murray is one of the few people in the world who has the professional expertise to unlock a copper scroll that hasn't been read in centuries.
THE COPPER SCROLL picks up the story and characters from THE EZEKIEL OPTION several months after its ending. At a church in Winchester, Virginia, Jon Bennett and Erin McCoy are getting married and many White House and foreign dignitaries are in the audience. Dr. Eliezer Mordechai, former Mossad chief and author of the document known as the Ezekiel Option, walks Erin down the aisle. As the ceremony concludes, the various pagers sound to alert officials about the Willard hotel explosion near the White House.
Erin chooses Ronda, Spain, for their honeymoon, though it's interrupted by the news that Dr. Mordechai has been attacked and is barely alive in Israel. The couple moves quickly to his bedside, and before he passes away they promise their friend to find them and stop them --- except they don't know "them." Erin and Jon visit Dr. Yossi Barak and his daughter Natasha at the Shrine of the Book, which preserves and studies the Dead Sea Scrolls. They learn about the Copper Scroll and then travel across the border to Amman, Jordan, to view it.
The following is a key paragraph that reveals the novel's adventure, with Dr. Barak speaking about one line of information on the scroll: "Ever since we first opened and translated the Copper Scroll in 1956, there has been a raging debate among scholars about the meaning of Line 64. Some believe this second Scroll is merely a duplicate, an insurance policy of sorts, lest the original was lost or destroyed. But others --- myself included --- believe the second Scroll, which I have dubbed the Key Scroll, is actually the more important of the two because it alone unlocks the mystery of the Copper Scroll. If we're right, whoever finds the Key Scroll will find the Second Temple treasures, and not a few Jewish scholars believe that when the Second Temple treasures are discovered, it will be time to build the Third Temple."
This paragraph is pivotal because the remainder of the book is about the race to locate the Key Scroll before it falls into the hands of the evil opposition. It will reveal the hidden location of the treasures from Solomon's Temple --- including the Ark of the Covenant, which is one of the greatest ancient treasures yet to be discovered.
This entire political thriller is told over a 12-day period and hooks the reader immediately from the opening pages. If you like this type of fiction, you will enjoy THE COPPER SCROLL.
Reviewed by W. Terry Whalin on August 1, 2006