After a fellow student dies while accompanying Jonathan Marcus
during a midnight underground excursion beneath the streets of
Rome, Jonathan is sent home to the United States in disgrace. He
tries to redeem himself, but cannot escape his past. Years later,
because of his background in Greek and Latin and his knowledge of
antiquities, he has become a highly sought-after attorney in a
prestigious New York law firm.
While representing his firm, Jonathan is flown to Rome to
testify in a high-profile case that pits the interests of a
wealthy, anonymous client against the Italian Cultural
Ministry, which claims the artifact belongs to Italy. Testifying on
the other side of the issue is Dr. Emili Travia, Deputy Director of
the International Center for Conservation in Rome. Jonathan and
Emili have a past. Several years ago, before Jonathan was sent back
to the United States, they were graduate students and lovers while
studying at the American Academy in Rome. Emili is passionate about
preserving artifacts and sacred objects of the past and relentless
in her campaign against anyone who stands in her way.
In the course of Jonathan’s examination, he uncovers a
fascinating hidden message. Also, while he is in Rome, an Italian
antiquities squad discovers a woman’s preserved corpse in an
abandoned warehouse. The body bears a clue within a tattoo that,
coupled with the hidden message, sends Jonathan and Emili on a
quest from the underground caverns beneath the streets of Rome to
the holiest of shrines in Jerusalem.
Emili has proof of unauthorized excavation beneath
Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, but no one seems to want to
listen. Behind the excavation is a shadowy terrorist named Sheikh
Salah ad-Din, who stays one step ahead of Jonathan and Emili, and
is determined to revise history by obliterating proof of Jewish and
Christian presence from the Temple Mount. As Jonathan and Emili
“follow the fates,” somehow the hidden message, the
clue on the woman’s corpse, the underground excavations and
their past relationships converge.
THE LAST EMBER covers the spectrum of the human condition ---
greed, envy, hatred, treachery, blood lust, fanaticism,
selflessness, love, integrity, courage, and respect for the sacred.
It is not only a gripping story, but also a gentle lesson in
history. Lawyer and debut novelist Daniel Levin does a fine job
translating the foreign language passages so the reader isn’t
distracted from the story, and he seems to take pains not to
lionize one religious group at the expense of another. There are
heroes, villains, betrayers and protectors on all sides.
Levin combines mystery, ancient history, Church history, and
modern political intrigue into a sophisticated, entertaining
thriller, which I hope is the first of many for this talented
Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt (firstname.lastname@example.org) on December 30, 2010