Interesting story, but not my cup of tea.
TL;DR –A story of conspiracy, kidnapping and alternative theories on Christianity
Ragdoll Rating: 2.5/5 Buttons
Recommended For: People who enjoy religious conspiracy
About the Book…
When an unknown tunnel is discovered under the streets of Leiden, it’s an exciting time for historians. But when one colleague winds up dead, and another kidnapped, Peter de Haan’s life is about to get difficult. Peter is forced to follow a trail of clues to rescue his friend, and finds himself learning more and more about the mysterious cult of Mithras.
St Paul’s Labyrinth is story of religious conspiracy, and devotes a long time to offering an alternative explanation for the history of Christianty – so obviously, if that’s going to rub you the wrong way, probably best to avoid it.
What I thought…
This book has me split down the middle, and I’ll tell you for why. I picked up this book hoping for your standard religious conspiracy treasure hunt style story, which is exactly what I got. I just found myself hopping between liking and hating bits really rapidly.
What I liked about this book was the alternative history it provides. The book suggests, among other things, that Jesus and the rest of the Jewish people were totally fine with each other, until St Paul got spurned and humiliated by a Jewish priest and decided he was going to destroy Judaism. He did this, according to the book, by re-tooling the concept of Jesus, to fit around the existing story of Mithras, and then spreading it around. This caused a big divide in the Jewish faith, and sparked of Christianity which really is just a collection of rituals and stories about a completely different god. This is explored in considerable detail during the course of this book, and that’s sort of what bugs me. If you’d handed me this book and said “Here is a well referenced work of non-fiction explaining many of the inconsistencies in early Christianity” I would have eaten it up with a spoon. Religious history is my JAM. But it was a bit much in the middle of a fiction work, and I personally found that the story was less interesting than the religious history element, which was a bit jarring.
What I didn’t like was the quantity of analogies. This book is full of them, for completely random things. Things you would never think needed an example. Everything is ‘like’ this and ‘like’ that. I found it really, REALLY annoying, and I know that’s pretty petty, but it wrecked the flow of the book for me.
I also struggled to follow the book itself. Each chapter has a date, and they jump all over the place, but also I struggled to understand the motivations. The main character, for example, seems to be expecting some sort of religious quest to drop into his lap, as he is waaaay to into the whole thing long before his colleague is kidnapped. He runs from the police after his other colleague disappears for no apparent reason at all, and then keeps going. Also, the book declares that Peter is not a Robert Langdon-esque super genius, and yet he still manages to solve a myriad of random clues in no time flat, something I don’t imagine your average professor would be able to do. I don’t know why this bothered me.
I personally would have loved to see this book split into two, a fiction book containing a heavily reduced quantity of religious explanations, and a non-fiction book giving the background to the whole thing. Alas, it was not to be.
Please Note: I received a copy of this book via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!