It would be a shame if Illuminated (Thomas Nelson, 314 pp., $22.99) gets lost in the flood of post-Da Vinci Code read-alikes. At first glance, Matt Bronleewe’s debut mystery is a ringer for the best-selling theological thriller, with its reliance on secret religious societies, encrypted meanings and a ticking ecclesiastical time bomb. The more pages you turn, however, the more Illuminated reveals a unique voice, becoming a stand-alone work that’s hard to put down.
Illuminated’s hero is August Adams, a somewhat shady antique book dealer whose family has suffered due to his reckless pursuit of wealth and adventure. On the verge of a huge score—the sale of a rare, hand-illuminated Gutenberg Bible—Adams and his fragmented family are drawn into a plot that could shatter the core beliefs of two of the world’s great religions. With the clock ticking and his family’s lives at stake, Adams must unravel a mystery that could lead to tremendous wealth and further the aims of a secret society bent on world domination.
There’s no point in pretending this isn’t familiar ground. Like the matinee serials of Steven Spielberg or the novels of Ian Fleming, Bronleewe’s book takes the reader on a journey that’s all last-minute getaways and unforeseen betrayals. With disbelief held firmly at bay, however, readers will find Bronleewe an engaging storyteller with a gift for dialogue and, unlike Spielberg, a knack for making his villains seem almost human. As the plot unfolds, Johannes Gutenberg himself emerges as a silent character in Illuminated. The 15th century German printer, whose invention of moveable type contributed to the rise of Protestantism (and, according to some, the failure of the Church of Rome’s own plans for world domination), has been linked to secret societies and is something of a mystery in his own right.
In his other life, Bronleewe is a Nashville musician, songwriter and producer who works in gospel music. As with some artists of that ilk (the rock band Creed, for example), Illuminated’s staunchly Christian worldview is stealthily concealed by the trappings of popular culture. August Adams is a man of the world, but no matter how far his theories vary from accepted Jewish and Christian belief, he returns to a world safe for orthodoxy. If that sounds like a thrilling ride, then Illuminated is the book for you.
Matt Bronleewe reads from his novel Nov. 20, 7 p.m., at the Brentwood Barnes & Noble.
So long Don. Your creative energy and encouragement were inspirational to me.
It was so great being one of those kids in Dayton.
I miss Iodine.
^ It's nice to see an official acknowledgement by management. Kristen Mcarther Miles (the girl…
How ironic that "Vandy radio" gets resurrected as a fictional station?! I was just glad…
Wonderful tribute to a wonderful man.