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The Crossbow Code
by M.C. Raj
Panther House

reviewed by Joe Kilgore

“Kris gave an open invitation for tittle-tattle. Blessed gossip. Harbinger of human hope. Sluice gate of uncontainable truths.”
There is a relatively straightforward story—a classic plot—within the pages of Raj’s novel. Readers will be compelled to see where this tale is going and how it will end. The real delight of this book however, is the journey to get to that end. It is with lilting language, imaginative sojourns, and memorable characters.

Kris is a young man from India who shows up at the Vatican and is arrested on suspicion of terrorism. His two Muslim wives intercede with the Pope. Kris is released and granted a papal audience. Then the Pope winds up dead. Thus begins a fevered flight from the long arm of the law, the slow unraveling of a sinister conspiracy, and the construction of a complex puzzle that will eventually reveal just who this Kris fellow really is.

Raj creates a world in this novel that is both real and unreal. It consists of contemporary elements as common as airplane travel and television, yet it is peopled with individuals who have loosed the bounds of time. How else to explain Kris’s and his wives’ interludes with Mahatma Gandhi and Karl Marx? From Rome to India to Germany, modern fugitives mix with historical heavyweights in an intricate exploration of diverse ideologies. The essence of this tale is actually less about a murder mystery and more about the mysteries of life. Love in all its complexities is put under Raj’s literary microscope. Prejudice, anger, and fear are dissected and inspected. Religion, humanism, and environmentalism share shelf space with one another. This novel does what novels do best. It makes the pursuit of thought imminently enjoyable.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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This review was written by a professional book reviewer with no guarantee that it would receive a positive rating. Some authors pay a small fee to have a book reviewed, while others do not. All reviews are approximately half summary and half criticism. The US Review of Books is dedicated to providing fair and honest coverage to all books.