The Moses Virus: A Novel. Jack Hyland. Taylor Trade Publishing. January 2014. 232 pp. hbk. ISBN #: 9781589799080.
Millions of people have read or heard the story of Moses and the Jewish people’s exodus from Egypt. We also know of the plagues visited upon the hard-hearted Pharaoh and the Egyptians who refused to yield to the command of Moses’ God. But few have ever questioned the cause of those plagues other than the miraculous intervention of God.
The Moses Virus: A Novel is that long awaited explanation and the villainous consequences of that plague throughout history. Here in this present generation Thom Stewart, eminent forensic archaeologist, is invited to be present at the opening of a famous archaeological site at the Roman Forum. It’s a day that ends in excitement but not of an expected historical discovery; instead another notable archaeologist and his student are found dead, accompanied by a group of skeletons attired in white lab coats. It’s obvious they all died in ferocious agony!
The majority of the characters herein work for the American Academy in Rome, Italy, a scholarly society dedicated to the research and publications of archaeologists, artists, architects, writers, musicians and other scholars. With the sudden disastrous deaths Tom, assisted by an ally, Alexandra Cellini, begins to search for the cause of this lethal virus, increased when he is followed, robbed, kidnapped and attacked because everyone believes he knows where a secret cache of the virus is hidden.
What starts out as a staid normal crime turns out to be a hair-raising, frantic search for answers. Throughout this story, the author presents a lovely description of all the main sites of Roman history in an enticing way that makes the reader want to visit this famed city. We also get quite an education of the specific nature of the plagues that have killed millions of people during the time of Egyptian pharaohs, the Black Plague of Europe, and other events in which millions of people died quickly and violently.
No, this is by no means the whole story. Tom and Alex discover they are being continuously watched by many different groups. The novel moves in and out of Italy and results in several deaths beyond that of the initial scientists. It also compels the reader to ask some important questions about the role of the Catholic Church in secret negotiations with Hitler during WWII.
The Moses Virus… is deceiving and unique in how slowly it starts out, how calm everyone remains even with the intense possibilities of this conflict, and how it grows into its intensity where life and death scenes appear over and over and quickly as well. The central conflict is similar to most “virus or secret weapon” plots but is unique in its intelligent and sensitive presentation. One suspects that there will be a follow-up to his very interesting piece of criminal fiction. Nicely done, Jack Hyland!