The Guardians of the Covenant, by Tom Egeland
Author and journalist Tom Egeland was born in 1959 in Oslo, Norway. He grew up in the suburb Kalbakken in Groruddalen, north of Oslo's city center, where his parents ran two shops.
During high school, he lived for a year as an exchange student in the USA. Tom Egeland is married and has three children: Jorunn, Vegard and Astrid. The family lives in Oslo, Norway.
Egeland has worked as a journalist from 1979, and since 2006 he has been a full time writer.
Tom Egeland made his literary debut in 1988 with the horror novel Ragnarok - about a modern couple trapped in the Norse Viking age. In 1993 he published the horror novel Shadowland. His break-through was the novel Circle's End (2001), about the discovery of a gold shrine
Tom Egeland won the 2009 Riverton Prize for his "Lucifers evangelium". Egeland's books have been translated into 18 languages. His latest book was Fedrenes løgner (2010), which instantly became a bestseller in Norway.
(Review based on the Norwegian original, entitled Paktens voktere). In The Guardians of the Covenant, a Dan Brown-ish kind of a thriller, Norwegian writer Tom Egeland again sends his albino archeologist hero Bjørn Beltø, a nerd that much prefers his research and the tranquility of his office, out into the world on a new quest. This time is an ages old Viking manuscript, found by an Icelandic colleague of Beltø that is the trigger. The document is Codex Snorri, from the old Viking chronicler and historian Snorri Sturlason.
The ancient Viking parchments contains runes and riddles that seem to point in the direction of an old document containing secrets of key importance to the understanding and interpretation of the Old Testament. These codes lead Beltø out on a quest for clues in mysterious places, from Egyptian tombs to antiquarian bookshops – to Rome, England, New York, Norway. As well, we travel in time, back and forth, and gradually linkages between occurrences and events are revealed to us.
The Guardians of the Covenant is a complex and very fast-paced conspiracy thriller. It draws on Old Norse myth, as well as on Ancient Egyptian superstition, Christian theology and ideas of Christian secret societies. All taking place in a world of codes, runes, hidden maps, archaic symbols, and opposing force of villains and with the CIA running interference as well.
Powerful forces are against him, but even so Beltø manages to unveil a religious cover-up with potentially fatal consequences. Beltø may be a nerd and quite geeky, but when the situation requires it, he is quite capable of making the right decisions. As well, he turns out to be capable of action when the need arises. An interesting hero, much loved in Scandinavia, I may add.
It is a big tale, probably also pretty wild and at times a tad lacking in plausibility, and - as well – a complex story. However, it is also a fun, fantastic, intriguing and memorable story. For fans of authors like Katherine Neville, Raymond Khoury and Dan Brown it’s a big treat and great entertainment. But if you prefer a quiet little whodunit, then this may not be the book for you.
Relic, by Tom Egeland
Relic (original title Sirkelens ende) is a fast-paced and intelligent story featuring Bjørn Beltø, an eccentric Albino archeologist in Norway and the “hero” of Egeland’s The Guardians of the Covenant. This time Beltø is a designated site inspector, representing Norwegian interests in an archeological dig in Norway, at the site of a medieval Norwegian monastery. When a sensational find is made on the site, the internationally renowned professor in charge of the dig breaches all established procedures of archeology and takes off with the find: a gold reliquary of unknown origins that clearly is extremely valuable.
Bjorn Belto gets upset. And when he gets upset, he acts. So he follows the professor to an office at the University of Oslo, listens in on a conversation that indicates that the reliquary is about to be transported out of the country. And then, when an opportunity presents itself, he steals the relic and hides it.
Now, all of a sudden, Bjorn Belto, the man assigned with the job of protecting the interests of Norway at the dig, finds himself hunted by an unknown group. Clearly they want the reliquary. But why? What is it about it that makes it so valuable? What does it contain?
The hunt for the truth – the deeply skeptical Bjorn Belto’s desire to know why, to understand – lands him in lots of trouble, will nearly cost his life, and will take him on a journey to London, the Middle East and an ancient castle in Southern France. On the way he learns how some of the basic truths of Christianity – and indeed the Bible itself – are based on assumptions and interpretations that may or may not hold water. And time and time again, his inquiries are met with falsehoods, fantastic lies, and carefully re-interpreted tales in order to confuse him to relinquish the reliquary.
Along the way, he will also learn that his own life has been based on lies – that the death of his father may not have been what it seemed .
This is a solid and interesting thriller by Norwegian author Tom Egeland. We enter into a world of ciphers, false clues, betrayal, ancient manuscripts, secret societies, and a 2,000-year-old conspiracy to cover-up the actual facts of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Relic is a thriller that will definitely appeal to people who enjoy the Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown – Egeland’s book is also full of mythical intrigue. Relic is excellently written and very intriguing – and where Dan Brown turns his plot in the direction of action, Egeland’s plot gets increasingly intellectual. A very satisfying and good read!