What would happen if someone could produce absolute proof – utterly incontrovertible, unquestionable, gold-standard evidence – that God exists? That Jesus WAS his son, born of virgin birth? That Christ’s miracles, resurrection and ascent into Heaven really, really, happened, exactly as the Bible describes?
More. That Heaven – and Hell – truly are above and below us. That both God and Satan are constantly watching us, struggling to gain control over each other, and whispering directly into the ears of their chosen ones?
What might happen to the person who discovered and published this jaw-dropping, world-changing proof?
We’d have to kill them.
That’s the starting point for Peter James’s hugely ambitious new novel. And the reason the bearer of the glad – and not-so-glad – tidings would have to die is obvious when you think about it, as James clearly has. Incontrovertible evidence for the existence of God would put organised religion and all their associates and apparatchiks out of business overnight.
Who’d need them? When you could go straight to the top? Priests and their confessionals, mediums and their séances, preachers and their prayers – all utterly redundant. No more need for intermediaries and their metaphysical embassies controlling access to God, Jesus, Mary and the angels. The people could talk to the Creator direct, certain of His existence.
There’d also be the slight problem of which organised religion had got it right. The Catholic Church? Protestant? Seventh Day Adventists? And what about the really big power-players – Christianity versus Judaism versus Islam? Whose God was it? Who, exactly, had made the right call? In the crowded Belief Room, who’d be left standing?
James’s fascinating and often funny narrative also begs the question about what would happen to all the false prophets, bogus faith-healers, charlatans and fake mediums. With the Second Coming at hand Jesus’s whipping of the money changers in the temple would seem like a polite and gentle ushering out of guests at a party.
All these players are in Absolute Proof, from the Pope to the Archbishop of Canterbury to the fakes. James writes wittily and convincingly about their response to imminent proof of God’s existence.
That proof comes courtesy of a mysterious phone call to Sunday Times investigative journalist Ross Hunter.
‘I’d just like to assure you I’m not a nutcase, Mr Hunter. My name is Dr Harry F. Cook. I know this is going to sound strange, but I’ve recently been given absolute proof of God’s existence.’
Hugely cynical to begin with, Hunter gradually comes to realise this is no mad hoax. Piece by piece he assembles a two-thousand year-old jigsaw, collecting crucial evidence along the way. The Holy Grail, hidden for generations in a quintessentially English setting. One of Christ’s teeth, guarded in a remote Egyptian cave by descendants of the Disciples. And most compellingly of all, a former US TV magician fallen on hard times but still able to perform astonishing tricks – including turning whisky into beer; a neat take on Christ’s water-into-wine miracle. Does he carry Jesus of Nazareth’s DNA?
Thought-provoking, thrilling, funny and challenging, Absolute Proof is Peter James’s most ambitious novel yet.