Gospel Thrillers: Conspiracy and the Bible in U.S. Popular Culture

(2009) Greg Loomis, The Coptic Secret (Dorchester)


Greg Loomis is an Atlanta-based corporate attorney who, later in life, began writing spy thrillers. Several of them, including The Coptic Secret, feature a sort of fantasy version of Loomis: Langford "Lang" Reilly, an Atlanta-based ex-spy (and also former attorney) of enormous wealth and skills who gets caught up in the quest for various "secret" conspiracies often surrounding antiquities or historical documents. In most of the novels, Lang is teamed up with Gurt, a German former CIA agent and lover, whom he marries in a later book in the series. In The Coptic Secret, Lang discovers that Gurt has has been secretly raising their toddler.

Lang is depicted as wealthy, intelligent, and well educated—he easily trades Latin aphorisms with a Catholic priest friend—but also shockingly disdainful of the foreign locales to which he travels: scenes in the Middle East are transparently Islamophobic. Lang (and, one supposed, Loomis) also has scorn for the ineptitudes of corporate U.S. and the federal government; he refers, unironically, to the "War of Northern Aggression"; and he marvels at Gurt's capacity to turn on a dime from talented spy to inveterate woman shopper. A conservative character who demonstrates that specific politics have little to do with the pervasive fantasy of biblical conspiracy that animates the Gospel Thriller genre.

Heroes: Langford Reilly, attorney, former spy, rich southerner (with conservative politics) along with German bombshell CIA agent Gurt Fuchs, who secretly had Lang's son a few years earlier
Villains: Knights of Malta, a secret cadre of priests within the Vatican who stage murders to look like the martyrdoms of apostles; at the end of the novel Lang blows up their headquarters
Gospel: A more authentic version of the Nag Hammadi Apocryphon of James written in "Coptic Greek," with an extra coda showing that, after Jesus chose James over Peter to lead the church, Peter killed James out of jealousy

Reviews. Very few reviews of this book have appeared, even on book review blogs (although one raved about the novel and called it a "roller-coaster ride"). Amazon and Goodreads reviewers have found the book formulaic and occasionally complain about the author's politics but overall compliment its quick pace; as becomes typical after 2005, comparisons to Brown's Da Vinci Code, both positive and negative, bound.

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