Midnight Ink, May 2007, $13.95
In December 2004, ninety-five years old Aldo Cecilio dies from cancer; his daughter Pia inherits his vast estate including his Cecilio Museum of Art and Antiquities in New Paltz, New York. Among his papers is an ancient document written in a language that Pia has no idea what it might be. She visits Columbia University where she seeks to meet brilliant ancient language graduate student Guy Coffee Daniels. She asks him to translate her father’s apparent Dead Sea scroll.
What Coffee translates crushes his spirit as the document is the gospel by Jesus. In it the Son of God claims to be actually the Devil’s disciple. Unable to cope, Coffee becomes a homeless street person carrying a sign John 13.16 instead of the usual 3.16 as this fallen student knows now “the population wants to be deceived, so let them be deceived” for deception is the root of evil. Pia searches for the lost Coffee and her scroll not realizing that he fears revealing the truth because devout believers like her would handle the great con worse than a cynic like him who became a street person once he learned the meaning of the word.
Readers will be hooked by the underlying premise of THE LOST and wonder how Pia will react if she catches up to Coffee and gets him to reveal what he learned that sent him into a mental tailspin. The story line is fast-paced although it contains some well written “required” action scenes that add suspense but also takes the audience away from the powerful thought provoking philosophical issues. Michelle Hancock’s tale is stupendous when the plot coaxes the audience to a paradigm switching pondering of the plausibility whether Jesus and company pulled off the greatest hoax in history and if true how the faithful and the non-believers would react.