Sacred Cipher by Terry Brennan

I knew before I looked at the bio that this book was written by a fellow journalist... newspaper, that is. Somehow we know each other just by sentence structure and the way we call people by their last names all the time.
This is a fairly well crafted story. I could tell before the end of the first chapter that I'd like this book, then that fatal error happened. The author switched channels almost mid-sentence and we're off somewhere plotting the demise of someone we had just gotten acquainted with. Ooops, I ended that sentence with a preposition. Ah, well.
While the kind of theatrics works well in movies because the viewer can see faces and tell characters apart quickly by gender, hair color, voice, color of skin, and so forth, the book reader needs a bit more lead in than it takes for the beginning credits to really care about what happens to the protagonist. Especially, when we already have the tension built in the prologue a century before all the "action" actually starts. Why do novelists and editors continue to believe that novel stories can be treated just like movies? They cannot.
Movies grab emotion simply because the actors are projecting emotions. Readers must read and then feel the emotion. We can certainly be led down any emotional path and have a huge buy it simply because we are emotionally into the story. Contriving tension is immediately recognized and the experienced reader will back away from it because it is a contrivance rather than real... it is recognized as a theatrical trick, rather than a clever twist in the storyline.
Once a novelist loses the reader because of a contrivence, it is almost impossible to regain that trust and there goes another lost sale.
The second thing is, a movie goer will buy into the most absurd things just because it's a movie... who could possibly believe there was a map on the back of the Declaration of Independence and that it would lead to a "National Treasure"? Completely absurd. But, somehow the theatrics and the actors make it believable.
Readers, on the other hand, must have something to hold on to that makes the premise believable, especially a book that touts itself as Christian Fiction, and most especially a book that has a section "Fulfilled Prophecy". An underground Temple is not believable.
Anyone who has studied prohecy, both old testament and new testament, recognizes this as an unbelievable tale of wishful thinking. It is most assuredly out of context as well as excruciatingly improbable. The Third Temple underground would be obscene to Jews today because it is so far from what God has said would happen, and it would be unthinkable to Hebrews of centuries past because it is not what God said would happen. It was improbable, impossible to believe, and I simply lost patience with it.
The pros of the story, though, is that the characters were very well developed and quite charming. I found myself loving the greatest and the least equally. The crafting of the story is superb (except for the side jaunts which are unnecessary to build tension). The storyline flow is very good, and I have no doubt that it would also make a great script. Any other premise, and I would have ingested this book with the reverence given a Christmas Dinner... but, the end could not justify the means for me.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Sacred Cipher

Kregel Publications (July 31, 2009)


Terry Brennan


Over the past 35 years, Terry Brennan has accumulated a broad range of experience in both the profit and non-profit business sectors.

His 22-year, award winning journalism career included:
• Seven years as a sportswriter and editor with The Philadelphia Bulletin, at the time the largest-circulation afternoon newspaper in the nation;
• Leading The Mercury of Pottstown (PA), as its editor, to a Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Writing;
• Serving as Executive Editor of a multi-national newspaper firm – Ingersoll Publications – with papers in the USA, England and Ireland.

In 1996 Brennan transferred his successful management career to the non-profit sector and served for 12 years as Vice President of Operations for the Christian Herald Association, Inc., the parent organization of four New York City ministries, including The Bowery Mission.

Now Chief Operating Officer of the National Organization on Disability, Brennan also won the Valley Forge Award for editorial writing from the Freedoms Foundation. His two adult sons and their families live in Pennsylvania. Terry, his wife Andrea and their two adult children live in New York City. The Sacred Cipher is his first novel.


History's greatest secret could be tomorrow's greatest threat More historically and biblically accurate than The DaVinci Code and just as adventurous as an Indiana Jones movie, The Sacred Cipher combines action and mystery to draw readers into a world of ancient secrets and international escapades.

When an ancient scroll appears in a secret room of the Bowery Mission in New York City, Tom Bohannon is both stunned and intrigued. The enigma of the scroll's contents will send Bohannon and his team ricocheting around the world, drawing the heat of both Jewish and Muslim militaries, and bringing the Middle East to the brink of nuclear war in this heart-pounding adventure of historical proportions. The Sacred Cipher is a riveting, fact-based tale of mystery and suspense.

If you want to read the Prologue of The Sacred Cipher, go HERE

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