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    Review of THE REINCARNATIONIST by M. J. Rose (see her website)

    MIRA, September, 2007

    Since being caught in the backwash of a terrorist bomb explosion, Josh Ryder has suffered flashbacks--of another life. In his flashbacks, he's a Roman priest during the last days of Roman paganism. The Christian religion reigns triumphant and is brutally suppressing any remaining pagans--including both priests and the Roman cult of the Vestal Virgins. Josh's alternate personality, Julius, is in love with one of those vestals--a crime punishable by death for both. In the present day, Josh works for a foundation studying reincarnation. When word reaches him that an archeological dig may have turned up mystical stones that could be the secret to opening all past lives to their possessor, he knows that they may be the path to untold power--and to his link with the Julius persona.

    In Rome, Josh stumbles upon a archeological robbery, meets an intriguing female archeologist, and suffers from continuing flashbacks. Could the secret of the stones be one that threatens the very foundation of the Christian Church?

    Author M. J. Rose weaves together the stories of Julius the Priest and Josh the researcher. Of the two, Julius's story is far more interesting--set in a fascinating period of history and told from an unusual viewpoint (for most, the rise of Christianity is seen as inevitable or good, for Julius it is uncertain and evil). Even the Julius story has its problems, though, as Julius doesn't seem to make much effort to reconcile his beliefs in Pagan gods and religion with his violation of one of the most important precepts of that faith. The Josh story, is even more problematic. Josh wanders around, basically unmotivated, until the pretty archeologist's daughter is kidnapped. Then, relying on the flashback memories of a woman who was his sister in an earlier life, he tracks down additional secrets and offers these to the kidnapper. He never really develops a plan, suffers setbacks, considers the moral consequences of his actions (is it really ethical to steal jewels, even if they are to be used to pay a ransom?), grows as a character, or does any of the basic things I look for in a thriller.

    Thriller fans will probably see the ultimate villain coming at least a couple hundred pages before the wrapup. Fortunately, Rose introduces a wealth of evil characters to distract the reader and maintain our interest level. I would have liked to see more in the way of character development, an explanation of how learning of past lives really could lead to power, a more sympathetic protagonist, and less use of coincidence. Still, Rose's prose is satisfying and, despite its flaws, THE REINCARNATIONIST is a page-turning read.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 10/07/07

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