The Lost Codex

August 1953

An Israeli member of the Mossad serves undercover as a translator on a Catholic archaeological dig in Bedouin territory near the Dead Sea.  An ancient scroll is discovered that portends to change religious history.  And it disappears.

I snap to attention thinking, “This Prologue is powerful!

Flashing forward in time, familiar characters from earlier Jacobson’s works are all brought back together for a Black Ops mission so secret even they weren’t told about it.

  • FBI profiler Karen Vail
  • DOD covert operative Hector Santos
  • FBI terrorism expert Aaron “Uzi” Uziel

A new character, Mahmoud El-Fahad, a Palestinian CIA Operative, is added to the team providing internal drama.  With real-life flareups in the Middle East, this novel has all the elements to capture the attention of the reader and educate about the disparate issues complicating a peace treaty between Israel and Palestine.

Additionally, the mysterious Codex is a tantalizing tease.  Ever present is a sense that the missing Codex has a significant role to play in the Black Ops Mission.

Unfortunately the book doesn’t pull off bringing these threads together smoothly. The alphabet soup common to the military and intelligence agencies is overpowering to the uninitiated reader.  The promise of learning that world religions could be profoundly affected by some ancient document hangs in the air with little or no reference for over half of the book. When Uzi and El-Fahad provide background on their cultures right in the middle of some interview or violent scene, it felt like the characters paused, faced the reader and gave a scripted history lesson. It stopped the action and made me lose track of what was happening in the story.

FBI profiler Karen Vail’s ridiculous mental asides appearing all through the book felt weird and made her seem an unlikely member of a black ops team.  It diminished the seriousness of her professional work.  Actually she seemed rather unnecessary to tell the truth.

The Lost Codex (the Aleppo Codex) remained lost through most of the book.  Now and again a thimbleful of text referred to it.  I kept waiting for the Team Black to eventually lead to the Aleppo Code and reveal what the scroll said that would change the world.  Instead the story seemed to head in all directions that had me wondering if all Black Ops teams and their Superiors are as unmoored as this group.  It might have been a better book to have just focused on the terrorists and the Middle East.

When, almost as an aside, the Codex is found and the deep secret is revealed, it felt anti-climatic.  The secret had the potential to rock the world but suddenly after those fugitive chases, bombings, intrigue, murder and mayhem, the Codex story just seems to lose air and quietly lose relevance altogether.

The Aleppo Codex is real and I was inspired by this book to find out more about it.  There was a great article in the 7/29/2012 issue of New York Times Magazine if you are interested.

I get really wrapped up in my reviews; I take them very seriously so the bottom line is I struggled to finish this book.  It was not a bad book by any stretch of the imagination just not top drawer.  There were entertaining and captivating moments.   The discussions on the history of the Middle East conflict were worth reading the book.


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