Monday, September 9, 2013

The Linen God by James O'Shea

The Shroud of Turin is the most studied and controversial religious relic in human history. The ancient linen cloth bears the image of a man, alleged to be that of Jesus of Nazareth. What if it were real? What if it contained a secret powerful enough to alter the course of human history? And what if it fell into the wrong hands?

Manny Lusum is convinced the Shroud is the genuine article and obsessed with proving it scientifically. Grace Barden is not only Manny's best friend, but she's also secretly in love with the physics student and soon-to-be Catholic priest.

Across the globe, three grisly murders and the theft of a secret manuscript thrust Grace and Manny into a generations-old conspiracy of biblical proportions. From New York to Rome to the inner sanctum of the Vatican, they struggle to untangle a bizarre mystery surrounding the controversial artifact. In a dramatic confrontation between faith and the ultimate evil on the world stage, Grace and Manny are pushed to the edge of an abyss, balanced on the brink between heaven and hell.


Chapter 1

The gaping wound in her side made every movement, every breath, more painful than the last. Crimson stained her bare feet, and the remnants of her screams echoed, but no lights beckoned from the shuttered buildings she passed. Not a single soul responded to her pleas for help. Rain beat a tattoo on rooftops and into puddles, drowning out all other sounds, so that only she and the feral-scented pursuer seemed to exist this night.
Someplace behind her, his heavy boots slapped the cobblestones. From a dark street, she slipped into an even darker alleyway and behind trash bins. The rain intensified, pounding the metal cans and pouring from the downspout by her feet. A red neon sign overhead made the discharge look like a river of blood.
She crouched down, wiped her face with her sleeve, and tried to still a shiver, but it wasn’t the bitter night that iced her bones. It was as if the cold were a living thing, seeping in through her thick, black tunic. “The Lord is my rock and salvation,” she whispered, her shallow breaths hanging in the rancid air. “In whom should I fear?”
Her whole body jerked at the sound of clinking glass and slurred voices rising above the rain’s steady drum. The silhouette of two young men swayed down the alleyway, no more than fifty meters away. Hoping to get their attention and beg for help, she slid out from behind the metal bins, stopped by something both sinister and familiar that passed through the darkness between them. She recoiled and then turned and ran, the wet fabric of her tunic clinging to her burning thighs.
Out of the night, church bells tolled, and the rain stopped. She spun toward the familiar sound. Storm clouds had scattered to reveal an open piazza at the end of the dark and narrow street. She gathered her tunic above swollen ankles and hurried toward it, pausing at the entrance to the open space. Across the piazza, a dim light filtered out through stained glass windows. Grazie, Dio! Thank you, God!
As she cowered in the darkness of the street, trying to control her ragged breathing, she looked left and right. She could sense him out there, lurking, somewhere. The bell tower’s shadow reached across the moonlit space, beckoning. She clenched her teeth, swallowed hard, and forced her body to move. “The Lord is my light and my salvation,” she said, as she ran toward the shadow and church steps. “In whom shall I fear?”
At the top of the stairs, she looked back and saw no movement, heard no sound. Her arthritic hands fumbled with the door’s iron latch. As it gave way, thunder rumbled. Startled, she peered over her shoulder to see plumes of warm breath that wafted from a still black form lurking in the shadows. O Dio, O God. She quickly leaned into the heavy wood door. The rusty hinges gave way, and she stepped through, slid the bolt in place behind her, and slumped against the door, her breath coming in halting gasps.
The air inside, redolent of oils and incense, felt thick and damp. In the distance, a small rack of votive candles interrupted the shadows, giving the space an unearthly glow. Her wrinkled hands guided her along the wall toward the flickering light as her eyes struggled to adjust. Instead of the flat surface she expected, her fingers traveled over an odd jumble of smooth contours and rough edges.
The walls came into slow focus, and her heart skipped a beat. A desperate scream lodged in her throat, choking her. She tried desperately to sort shadows from reality as her gaze darted back and forth. It couldn’t… Those couldn’t be human remains. Skulls . . . bones . . . thousands of them lining the walls.
She spun away, knelt, and folded her hands in prayer. “Yea,” she began. Her throat was dry, but the words were soothing. She swallowed and tried again, her voice now barely above a whisper. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”
Where was she? What horror had she come upon? She could almost hear the wails of the souls trapped deep inside. She turned back toward the horrific vision, because she remembered it now. Santa Maria della Concezione, the storehouse for the bones of Capuchin friars dating back to the fifteenth century.
“Dio Mio.” My God.
She lowered her head and hurried toward the candlelight, her calloused fingers traveling along the worn rosary beads. The candle’s light revealed the base of a circular staircase. She climbed into the nave and, thanks to a flash of lightning, avoided knocking over a holy water font hidden in the darkness. Her fingers dipped instinctively. Closing her eyes, she made the sign of the cross, invoking the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, before stumbling into a pew to catch her breath.
In the stark silence of the church, a tiny noise coaxed her out of her trance. She fell to her knees between the pews, ignoring the rush of pain from the hard marble floor. Faint footsteps advanced. A man hummed, random notes that soon merged into a familiar melody, one whose lyrics she had known since her childhood.
“Amazing Grace,” he sang softly. “How sweet the sound.” Both footsteps and words grew louder. “That saved a wretch like me.” Then silence but for the steady throb of her heartbeat in her ears.
She peered over the top of the pew and spotted a confessional across the aisle. She crept forward, struggling to silence the creak in her bones and the sound of wet fabric swishing along the marble floor. The aisle was empty. She eased forward into the penitent’s side of the confessional booth, pulling the door behind her and sliding the privacy latch quietly in place.
As she stood, waiting for her heart to find its normal rhythm, a whisper sounded, as if someone exhaled, and muted words drifted in from the far side of the wall that separated penitent from priest. “Would you like to make your confession, Ana?”
She stumbled and fell, hitting her head against the back wall. The privacy door slid open from the priest’s side of the booth as she lay crumpled in the corner.
Her mouth tried to form words but all she could manage was chattering teeth.
“Your sins, Sister Anastasia,” came the familiar voice again. “Would you like to confess them?”
She pulled herself up, struggling against the shooting pain in her side, and knelt on the padded kneeler. She stared into the blackness behind the privacy screen, unable to control her tremors. “My . . . my sins?”
“Come now,” the oily voice replied. “Who would know them better than I?”
“I have sinned against God and against man.” She felt a single tear track a course down her cheek. “I have nothing to confess to you.”
The voice hesitated and spoke slowly. “Perhaps then you can forgive me for what I have done?”
“No,” she said without hesitation. She sucked in a deep breath, released it, and said, “Nor can I forgive you for what you are about to do.”
Without warning, the metal privacy screen between the two booths exploded outward. She tried to shout, struggling to unleash a scream that would wake the dead around her. But a powerful hand muffled her cry as it squeezed the life from her frail body. His eyes flared into a fiery red.
“I choose not to forgive you, woman. Salvation shall elude you this day.”

Her world slowly faded from gray to black as he whispered, “You shall pay for your transgressions.”

About The Author

Jim is a long-time resident of Chesterfield, Missouri..."The City of Sculptures". He is a graduate of the University of Missouri in Columbia and now spends his time crafting novels of suspense that tackle the complex relationship between science and religion, stories designed to take the reader places he or she may not have previously considered.

His debut novel, "The Linen God", has been called "a wonderfully engaging, page-turning thriller" by Doug Peterson (Award Winning Author of The Puzzle People and The Vanishing Woman). He is currently working on his second novel, "The White King", due out in 2014.

Purchase The Linen God at:

James O'Shea is giving away a copy of The Linen God. To be entered in the giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You can enter the book giveaway twice—once on each Spotlight post for the author. Please note: The giveaway is for U.S. addresses only.


bonton said...

This sounds like a very exciting book - love that it is, partially, based on reality.

Thanks for the giveaway opportunity!


Boos Mum said...

I have watched a few tv specials about the linen shroud. Please enter me. Thanks.

sweetdarknectar at gmail dot com

Pam K. said...

What a powerful excerpt! It left me with many questions so I'd love to read the book to have them answered. Thanks for the chance to win a copy of The Linen God.


nylnestill said...

I would love to read the Linen Shroud.

  © Blogger template Simple n' Sweet by 2009 Design expanded and personalized by 2011.

Back to TOP