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Cordy, Michael - 'The Source'
Paperback: 364 pages (Aug. 2008) Publisher: Bantam Press ISBN: 0593060660

THE SOURCE is the fifth book by Michael Cordy and it is fabulous. Given the number of books being published in the wake of THE DA VINCI CODE, that fictionalise the unraveling of old manuscripts and other ancient mysteries, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this one does not conform to a now predictable pattern. Yes, THE SOURCE does contain a chase to reach the magical garden described in the manuscript, but its overriding message is one of the beauty and fragility of nature, the greed of Man and a warning about the dire consequences of what we are doing to our environment.

The book starts somewhat slowly but, be patient, you will be rewarded. Besides, the slow start really sets the scene and introduces the characters, so you can start to become familiar with them and their motives before the action begins.

In brief, Lauren Yale, a talented Harvard linguist, manages to decipher The Voynich Manuscript. This sends ripples of excitement throughout the academic community that eventually reach the ears of The Vatican. Interestingly, the Voynich is a real document outside of this story. It is thought to have been written somewhere between 1450 and 1520 and remains undeciphered to this day, despite the many attempts there have been to unravel its mysteries. It is hand-written and contains a number of mysterious drawings of strange plants and animals. It may well turn out to be a massive hoax. Nobody knows.

Setting fact aside and returning to fiction, Lauren is promised almost any position she wants in her department at Yale, as a result of her success with the manuscript. Tragedy strikes, however, when she and her husband disturb intruders in their home. Lauren is gravely injured and her life, as well as that of her unborn child, is left hanging in the balance. Ross Kelly, Lauren's husband, is a geologist and works in the oil industry. He is passionate about seeking oil and indifferent to the damage he is causing to the planet. A disturbing visit froma mysterious nun, soon after Lauren's accident, means that he is forced to seek salvation from the very manuscript that his wife has just translated. He sets out into the jungle to find the garden it describes in order to save her. The journey will change his outlook on life forever.

Ross and his travelling companions are not alone in their quest. A fanatical priest is also seeking the garden, in order to exploit it and bring glory to the Holy Mother Church as a result. He will stop at nothing to achieve his selfish aims and even hires the services of an infamous contract killer to help him. They track Ross and his party on their way to the garden, with dire consequences.

Ross eventually finds the garden that is described in the manuscript and is astounded to discover that it is indeed as amazing as the translation led him to believe, if not more so. More importantly, a wondrous, light-emitting monolith - called 'The Source' in Lauren's translation, and believed to be the origin of all life on earth - is contained within the garden. Ross and his team are keen to preserve the garden and continue to keep it secret, while the priest wants to destroy it, as he considers it a threat to the authority of The Church, and to take The Source, with its miraculous healing powers, as a gift for Rome.

The tension in the book builds as it reaches its conclusion and the ending is just perfect. One of the most interesting things about this book is the way it makes you look at yourself, your motivations and your own carbon footprint. It also points the finger at the sheer selfishness of us humans and how we are destroying the world around us, often with amazingly altruistic explanations for our actions but usually with greed and self-promotion at the core.

Not wanting to give anything away, the epilogue is definitely my favourite section in this book. Out of the ashes, it gives some small glimmer of hope for the future. As to what form this hope will take, I won't say. You have to read the book and find out for yourself.

Read another review of THE SOURCE.

Amanda C M Gillies, Scotland
December 2008

More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 9/08/2009 10:51