22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
I had really mixed feelings about this novel. I recommend it, with some major reservations.
On the one hand, SIGN OF THE CROSS has a remarkably ambitious and inventive plot. It is similar to THE DA VINCI CODE in that sense. Like Dan Brown, Mr. Kuzneski has done a great deal of research on alternative histories of Christianity. He does a very decent job weaving much of this historical research into the storyline. By reading this novel, I learned a lot of interesting facts about the Christian religion, as well as Roman history.
This novel, like the DA VINCI CODE, is very fast paced and contains a number of exciting action scenes that are well done. This novel also takes place in a variety of countries, like Denmark, Libya, China, Italy, Thailand and the United States. The chapters are relatively short, and this novel is hard to put down once you get started. This book also has a relatively good climax -- there is a major revelation at the end of this novel that I thought was highly creative.
The major flaw of SIGN OF THE CROSS is the characterization and dialogue. There are too many characters in this book, and Kuzneski keeps switching the perspective from character to character. As a result, no single character is fully fleshed out, and many characters comes across as little more than cardboard cutouts that rush from one action scene to another. Some of the supporting characters are downright cartoonish. Also, much of the dialogue in this novel is rather stilted and kind of clunky.
I must also admit that I didn't really care for Jonathon Payne, one of the "heroes" of this book. Payne is supposed to be a good guy, but has few qualms about using extremely violent tactics (i.e. torture) to achieve his goals. Payne is also a bit too invulnerable and superhuman for my tastes, more of a bland action hero than a real human being.
As a result, I felt very little emotional engagement in the story since I didn't feel very much sympathy for any of the characters. If Kuzneski had made his characters more three dimensional and vivid, this could have been a genuinely great novel.
Overall, though, I was impressed enough with the plot of this novel to recommend it. I think Kuzneski has exceptional plotting and research skills, but he needs to work more on his dialogue and characterization. If he does that, he could become the next Dan Brown or Steve Berry.
Three and a half stars.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 6, 2006
It's not a literary classic by any means, but I just found the book to be extremely entertaining in the best way,
I could compare to watching Terminator 2. It's not gonna win any Oscars for Arnold's acting or the direction, but it's a blast while you're watching it.
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on January 17, 2007
I did not like this book and it is my own fault for succumbing to curiosity; I did not see how anything could be new on the topic after DA VINCI CODE and Kathy Reich's BREAK NO BONES....
The subject of whether Christ died on the cross or not has been stirred too many times and no real thinker will buy these suppositions anyway.
But while the author is gripping in his descriptives of the crimes ( i.e: crucifictions, helicoptor crashes, etc) that seems to be his only forte.
He gives in to name dropping, mentioning Stephen King and Dan Brown for example, as if to alert us that he knows his story has been done before and that he is a reader, too. It is amateurish.
A maddening error is seen when a character asks himself a question and it is answered for him by the author. Then there are the teases at chapter ends and the sudden yanks back to reality when he reminds us he is writing a book, when the hallmark of a good novel is that the reader enters into it completely and loses touch with the world of reality for the duration. It is my belief that it is never wise to attempt to mix humor with drama.
I tossed the book aside but then a few days later leafed through the parts I had not read, but it did not improve my opinion.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2008
The overcrowded shelves of Anti-Catholic action-packed thrillers with obvious plot twists and Da Vinci-esque secret histories and a video-gamers indifference to body counts and gore finds its sophomoric expression in this forgettable page-turner.
Kuzneski's action starts with a detailed crucifixion, and then follows up with live human bodies melting into asphalt while a flamethrower wielding henchman cackles in glee. Every time a violence passage came along I thought "video game transition" and wondered which one it was..."Commando?" or "Grand Theft Auto?"
Kuzneski's formula is someone dies every seventh paragraph and the tough guys hijack a car or pick an impregnable lock every other page.
The Anti-Catholic plot surrounds archeologist Dr. Charles Boyd and his (beautiful, naturally) assistant Maria Pelati who discover a 2000-year-old scroll underneath the Papal retreat of Orvieto that contains "a secret that would change... the history of the world--forever." If you guessed that the secret is that Christ Jesus is a fraud, well just add "Da Vinci Code Fan" to your pieces of flair!
My old roommate Moby was once in a comic punk rock group called "The Vatican Commandos." Swish-Swiss guys in colorful puffy pants don't cut it, sooo Kuzneski, ever the laugh riot, creates real Vatican Commandos, who callously slaughter innocent folks right and left throughout the book. If you are still looking for hints on where to find the blatant Anti-Catholicism in the book, here is a hint....check out those crazy Ten Commandments that Faithful Catholics are supposed to follow. Oddly "Thou Shalt Not Kill" is still there and strangely fleshed out in the Catechism, if Kuzneski would have bothered to read it.
Catholic bashing is too much fun though, so he adds piles of corrupt and clean Western European law enforcement agents and two freelance CIA agents into the mix as hard guys and detectives (ooopss...by the end of the book, so many folks are CIA agents it reminded me of the original Casino Royale spoof where everyone became James Bond).
There are a lot of page-turning cat and mouse games and alliances change so quick you need a bulletin board and push pins to follow it all. This packs the plot of a thousand pulp fictions and a cast of thousands together, detail is always the sketchy "gee whiz" kind, and never fleshed out beyond the most superficial of treatments, but it is an action book after all. But anyone who knows anything about Italian and Roman history, the Church, or the way real law enforcement works will find this frustrating. This is an Adam West and Burt Ward version of the Vatican-Plot-To-Enslave-The-World-With-Their-Fabulous-Riches-Secrets-And-All-Powerful-Lies.
VaticanSecret+CIA+GameboyViolence+SexyBabe = Obvious page turner that is offensive and ignorant every other paragraph. Marshmallow Fluff has more substance and nutritional value.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2010
I buy books in an odd way.. if I find a new author to me.. and they have many books out.. I sit and read a few chapters in the bookstore.. and if I'm hooked on the book.. I wander BACK to the aisle.. and pick up EVERY book they have.. and buy them all. This is the book that I started reading in the store! It is extremely fast paced. Unique in today's world of publishing! This author.. must be madder than a hatter.. as I've never read anyone quite like him! lol. (that's a good thing!) 'Sign of the Cross' took me a day to read. I was SO glad.. that I'd purchased all the rest.. as I was able to dive right into his next book!
14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Although he claims in the Author's Note to have first come up with the idea for Sign of the Cross back in 1998, it is clear that Chris Kuzneski's novel owes more than a little to The Da Vinci Code. Both books deal with millennia-old conspiracies that, if revealed, threaten the existence of Christianity by calling into question the nature of Jesus. There is also at least one direct reference to Dan Brown in Kuzneski's book.
From a publisher's standpoint, distributing a novel like this makes clear sense, as it exploits the popularity of the hottest fictional work in the last decade or more. And in ways, Sign of the Cross delivers, as it is an action-filled novel much in the same vein as Brown's book.
The story starts off with three separate plot lines that only slowly converge. In one, Nick Dial, an American homicide detective working for Interpol investigates the murder of a priest in Denmark; the victim has been crucified and there are a number of clues that point to a religious nature of the murder; soon, other, similar killings will occur.. In the second storyline, archaeologist Charles Boyd and his beautiful assistant Maria Pelati unearth a hidden catacomb in the Italian town of Orvieto; among the artifacts they find is a scroll about Jesus and how the Roman emperor Tiberius intended to deal with him. No sooner do they make their discovery than they are ambushed and almost killed by assassins; while they do escape, they are suddenly fugitives. In the third storyline, Jonathon Payne and his sidekick David Jones, two heroic characters from a previous Kuzneski book called The Plantation are forcibly recruited by the CIA to track down Boyd. Payne and Jones are your stereotypical ex-superspy sorts, formerly members of a secret government agency (called MANIAC of all things) who now do private adventuring.
This is not a great book; it is actually subpar. It is fast-moving and somewhat fun, and Kuzneski is a good plotter. Unfortunately, he is not a very good writer. At times, he seems to forget some of the fundamentals of writing: for example, when Nick Dial makes a phone call - and the narration is clearly from his point of view - we cannot be told that the person on the other end is rolling his eyes. Kuzneski also has an annoying habit of ending his chapters not with mini-cliffhangers but rather teasers, such as "Of course, that was nothing compared to the evidence that Frankie was about to uncover next." Once or twice, such teasers might be okay, but in multitude, they are just unpleasant. In general, his dialogue is flat and his characterization is rather superficial.
There is an epilogue that seems like Kuzneski's wishy-washy attempt to avoid angering Christians (at least Brown doesn't shy from controversy). Despite the many problems, however, I was actually entertained much of the time, so as I wavered between two and three stars, I will favor this book with the higher rating. Nonetheless, it is not a book I can really recommend; if you enjoy Dan Brown, you're better off looking elsewhere.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2009
I have read a lot of these historical thrillers that blend fiction and facts; Dan Brown, Douglas Preston, Sansom, Mariani, Adams, Khoury just to name a few. Some have been better than others - but this is the first time where I wonder, how and why the author/book has become a bestseller. The blending of fiction and fact is quite poor, the story is not gripping (the thing that is supposed to turn the world upside down is not that big a thing) and the language is not convincing at all.
Some more specific examples: Several times (in two books, also Plantation) he talks about how the heroes don't have to follow the procedures of the police and the law, and he argues: "the beauty of it is that unlike the police and law, they are just looking for the truth". Hello, what is the police supposed to be doing?
Furthermore, again a minor but to me annoying note: A specific person had to ask 3 different people in Helsingør in Denmark (at the castle) before he found someone who could speak English. Well, unless he approached the 80 years old gardener, everyone working at that tourist-site can speak English. Just goes to show, for me at least, that this person has not done any extensive research on the countries and settings his scenes take place in.
If you like these kind of novels and heroes, go for John Rollins or some of the above.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 2010
The topic and genre are in the realm of the Da Vinci Code. While the subject of the mysteries of the Catholic Church and Christianity have been done many times, one more can't hurt if it's done right and if it's believable. Unfortunately, this story wasn't which is why I can't give it more than two stars. It started off with promise, a mysterious crucifixion of a Vatican priest on a deserted Danish coast, then went progressively downhill from there. There are several flaws with this book. First, there are no clear cut protagonists or antagonists. Payne and Jones are supposed to be the main investigators, yet they spend most of their their time running around Europe clueless and incompetent. I'm still trying to figure out why Nick Dial, Mr. Interpol Man was even in the story. He spends his time chasing crucifixions in the four corners of the globe, yet never made the connection until the last man was strung up. So much for good detective work. There were too many other characters in the story for the reader to keep track of who's who and their relevance. While the book itself was an easy read, the language was choppy, faked and childish at times. No good author writes a descriptive paragraph then begins the paragraph following it with "Anyhow" or "Anyway". You're telling a story, not having a conversation over latte at Starbucks. Even the profanity seemed forced and fake and if I read one more "little did he know", I wanted to scream. Kuzneski has potential, but he definitely needs the guidance of some of the heavy hitters in this genre like Dan Brown and Nelson DeMille, who ironically gave this book rave reviews, along with some other well known authors and critics. Reviews that seem to be as fake as the story in his book.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2006
Sign of the Cross is an engaging and fast paced story. Author Chris Kuzneski writes complex plots and rich characters. I know readers who enjoy Christianity conspiracy theories will enjoy the book. For readers who don't, read Sign of the Cross anyway. The conspiracy theories aren't my favorite fare, and I loved this book.
Multiple story lines can be confusing, but the readers will care about the well written characters. Some characters stand out like the tough guy Payne with a sense of humor. From the first line, Kuzneski sets the pace with a story that doesn't end until the last page. It's not a story that you can coast through--not only will you miss some nugget of information, but you'll miss getting everything the book offers. Kuzneski does an impressive job of research, plotting, dialogue, and rounded characters. He makes characters and scenes believable and exciting. When you think you know what side everyone is on, you're wrong. That's a feat, and a sign of a great author!
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2007
I must say that I enjoyed this book overall. It was an entertaining read. The story was an interesting one and might prompt readers to look into some of the assertions made to see how valid they might be. However, there are some pretty glaring flaws that made this book just an entertaining read rather than a thought-provoking must-read.
1. Almost every chapter ended with a ridiculous cliffhanger line. I know that many suspense writers, such as Dan Brown do this. But in this book, it felt so redundant and cheesy. I actually wished I had a dramatic cliffhanger sounder to play after every chapter to add to the melodrama.
2. These characters are SHALLOW. I know that they were introduced in an earlier book, but there is barely anything here to realte to the characters with. They were like cardboard cut outs walking around in this story.
3. There are some serious plot lines that are either tied up hastily or just dropped all together. Like what happened to the "crews". Its summed up in one sentence. WHAT? And also, how were their deeds even relevant?
Like I said, this book is not a master piece. It tried to be Dan Brown, but ends up being James Rollins. This is by no means a bad thing. I like Rollins. But just don't buy this book in the hopes of being enlightened.