The Judas Line ($15.95, 324 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-901-5), by Mark Everett Stone, is a paranormal suspense thriller about a magician and former assassin who, with the help of a tough-guy priest, sets out to thwart his family’s evil plans.
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“This delightful Catholicism-infused quest fantasy stars a likable and original duo. Fr. Michael Engle, a pragmatic Catholic priest, and Jude, who has a considerably more uncertain relationship with God, are unlikely friends, but when a blood-covered Jude runs into Mike’s church asking for help, Mike listens to him, believes him, and joins him on a quest to find the Holy Grail, which Jude hopes will help him destroy a legendary and dangerous family heirloom. Along the way they encounter Cain, the Norse gods (drinking and watching Bridge over the River Kwai), and a Valkyrie with the requisite ‘chainmail-covered pillowy breasts.’ When Mephistopheles shows up, Jude manages to label him an Arch-Fiend of Hell without irony and without irritating the reader. Stone’s depiction of magic is realistic and intelligent and his treatment of Catholicism refreshingly informed and three-dimensional. Even the obligatory near-apocalyptic ending is coherent, surprising, and exciting.”
—Publishers Weekly Starred Review
“This evil mystery is a heavenly read! THE JUDAS LINE creates a believable mystery which links the ancient past to the present. By building on the ancient story of the betrayal of Jesus Christ by Judas, Market Everett Stone crafts a dark versus light drama which will keep readers hooked. I loved how Stone makes Jude an unwilling member of the darkest family threatening mankind. Simply brilliant!” Read more ….
—Elizabeth Crowley, Fresh Fiction
“A fast-paced book which does not lack for history or adventure. The inclusion of death and destruction are a given and it is good that there is a lot of humour instilled throughout. I would say that if you’re a fan of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, you will enjoy Mark Everett Stone’s work. Recommended.”
—Michelle Herbert, Fantasy Book Review
“Evil does not die so easily. The Judas Line is a novel following Jude Oliver and the long family line that lies behind him, specializing in assassination, using the artifact known as the silver. Jude Oliver must find the origins and stories of his family to be able to end the Silver’s legacy for good, with only a single Catholic priest by his side. Blending paranormal and biblical ideas, The Judas Line is a riveting thriller that should prove hard to put down.”
—Midwest Book Review
“I have come to expect a lot from this remarkably talented writer, but Mark manages to please yet again by bringing new elements to his latest work. The Judas Line is, as anticipated, a lightning-paced thriller that is equal parts non-stop action and intelligent musing. This is, in fact, a surprisingly introspective book that delves into many interesting questions about the nature of good, evil, and faith. It’s an enthralling read certain to delight and entertain, a well-crafted gem worthy of a place on any bookshelf.”
—Michelle Izmaylov, author of The Galacteran Legacy: Galaxy Watch
“Mark Everett Stone takes the classic good versus evil plot line and puts his own unique spin on it. He effortlessly merges bible canon with the world and people he’s created, adding off-the-wall humor to help break the tension. This book makes you laugh while making you think about the nature of evil and the power of faith.”
—Jamie White, author of The Life and Times of No One in Particular
(5 Stars) “I found myself chuckling at some of the insane twists and turns of the plot and other times I was worried by the sudden turn of events …. A fast-paced read, with nail-biting moments and some humor thrown in. The characters were compelling, I often find myself picturing them in my head …. I can’t recommend this book enough.”
—Lisa McCourt Hollar, Jezri’s Nightmares
“Once in a great while, a book comes along that challenges you to think outside the box. The Judas Line is one of those books. I was absolutely amazed at the way Mark Everett Stone has taken religious stories and beliefs and intertwined his own tale of power, evil, friendship, sacrifice and redemption. The action is nonstop and the characters will stay with you long after you finish the last page.”
—M.E. Franco, author Where Will You Run?
“The pacing is flawless in every respect …. Never before have I found a work of fiction to be so captivating. It picks you up, sits you down, and it does not let you even think about getting back up. A word of warning: Hide your pocketbooks, because once you read this, you will spend your next paycheck on every Mark Everett Stone book available. And clear your schedule once you start, because, all of a sudden, that doctor’s appointment doesn’t seem so important.”
—Grace Knight, author of Sun And Moon (2013)
Mark’s first novel, Things to Do in Denver When You’re Un-dead, won the second place Forward Literature Award for Humor and was one of seven titles nominated for ForeWord Magazine’s debut fiction award, ForeWord Firsts.
Jude Oliver hails from a long line of assassins. Tired of his family’s treachery and wanting more from life than power, he escapes with their secret weapon, the Silver—an ancient artifact so potent, so evil, that it could plunge mankind into a permanent state of ruin and despair. After fifteen years on the run, Jude receives a surprise visit from a cousin who planned to murder him to obtain the family treasure. So begins Jude’s desperate quest to find another artifact powerful enough to destroy the Silver. His traveling companion is an unlikely friend, Mike Engle—a Catholic priest who found his calling on the brutal sands of Iraq. In the course of their journey, the two men clash with evil in many forms. Mike learns the details of Jude’s incredible history and the family secret that reaches back 2,000 years. Before their final, earth-shattering battle, the duo will find surprising allies and the strength to carry on against seemingly insurmountable odds. Will the lessons Jude has learned about love, friendship and sacrifice be enough to save him from his family and his destiny?
Says Stone, “I have always been interested in the battle between good and evil and the issue of free will. Add those to my desire to explore the nature of friendship, of camaraderie, and you have The Judas Line. It is my examination of friendship, personal choices and the sacrifices we make for those we love wrapped up in a thriller, tied with a fantasy ribbon.”
Born in Helsinki, Finland, Mark Everett Stone arrived in the U.S. at a young age and promptly dove into the world of the fantastic. Starting at age seven with the Iliad and the Odyssey, he went on to consume every scrap of Norse Mythology he could get his grubby little paws on. At age thirteen he graduated to Tolkien and Heinlein, building up a book collection that soon rivaled the local public library’s. In college Mark majored in Journalism and minored in English. Mark has published two other books with Camel Press, Things to Do in Denver When You’re Un-Dead and What Happens in Vegas Dies in Vegas. Coming soon: the third book in the From the Files of the BSI series, I Left my Haunt in San Francisco. Mark lives in Denver with his amazingly patient wife, Brandie, and their two sons, Aeden and Gabriel. You can find Mark on the Web at: markeverettstone.camelpress.com and markeverettstone.com.
The Judas Line is available in both 5×8 trade paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon Japan, and at select Barnes & Noble and independent bookstores. Bookstores and libraries can order through Ingram or Baker & Taylor or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. Other electronic versions are for sale on Smashwords, BN.com, and any of the major online eBook stores.
Read on for an excerpt:
Mike was shaken down to the roots. Oh, he hid it well, but I could see; we’d been friends long enough that I had his tells down pat. If he’d been a poker player, I’d have cleaned him out ages ago.
The Corolla chugged its way through Oklahoma and at Oklahoma City I switched off the 35 to the 44, taking us to Wichita Falls, Texas. As drives went, it rated up there with watching the grass grow. Mike was no help. He kept his eyes closed as though asleep or attempting to absorb what he’d read and seen.
Did I feel sorry for him? Almost. He may be a Catholic priest, but he’s also one tough son-of-a-gun. The only thing that had kept him from becoming an outlaw biker was his calling, his faith.
He thought I didn’t know about his wild side, but thanks to the Internet, I had found out a lot about Mr. Mike Engel, the Catholic priest. No father, mother dead of a heroin overdose when he was nineteen, one older sister—whereabouts unknown—and a stint in the army at eighteen to avoid jail time for boosting a motorcycle. Hoofed it over the sands in Desert Storm, ended his time in service with a couple of years in Germany. Finally, the call to God.
By all rights he should have exited the army a raving lunatic, hell-bent on wreaking havoc and drinking himself to death, but I guess he took to discipline in the service because he emerged straight as an arrow and left his past behind. Although he did keep a 1985 Harley FXWG 1340 Wide Glide in his garage that he’d been restoring for the past couple of years, a lingering reminder of his younger self.
The rest is, as they say, is history.
It ate at me, though, that I had let him come. Maybe the desire for company had overwhelmed common sense or maybe, better yet, he was the one man who might understand my whole sordid history. Hell, he helped me parse through the more difficult passages of the Bible (the Song of Solomon bored me to tears) and explained the Americanisms and obscure references in East of Eden.
“Where are we going, Jude?”
Mike’s question derailed my train of thought. “West Texas.” He was still leaning back, envelope in his lap and eyes closed.
“What’s in west Texas?”
“A whole lot of nothing.”
I grinned. “It’s what’s under that nothing that I want to get at.”
“What’s under that nothing?” he asked patiently as Wichita Falls receded in my review mirror.
There was no harm in spilling the beans. “After I established myself in Omaha, I traveled all over America to secure some spookers.”
“Spookers?” Mikes eyes cracked open and he stared at the surrounding countryside without interest.
“Stores of cash and false papers, just in case.”
“In case you had to go on the lam?”
I laughed. “Lam? Who talks like that? Really, Mike, you should stop watching television. Rots your brain, man.”
His icy blues rolled up. “You still haven’t answered my question, smart aleck.”
“Yes, in case I had to leg it. Passports, driver’s licenses, cash, the whole lot. Enough to disappear again and land comfortably on my feet.”
Mike snorted. “How very CIA-like of you.”
“You’ve read a bit of what my Family is like, Mike,” I said, voice cooling to just above absolute zero. “They would do, and spend, anything to find me, to get what I have.”
“That silver thing of yours?”
“Yes, the Silver. One of the most powerful magical artifacts in the world, second only to the Grail and the Arc of the Covenant.”
The explosion of incredulity I half expected didn’t come. When I spared a glance from the road, it was to see Mike staring at me with eyes colder and more pitiless than the spaces between the stars.
“The Arc of the Covenant? The Grail? Like the real ones, the ones Indiana Jones found?” The arctic tundra was warmer than his voice.
“When I left the Family, I liquidated my assets and I’ve used a lot of that to find something that would help me destroy the Silver.”
“What about throwing it in the Laurentian Abyss?”
The vanishing point met my eyes as I answered. “You could stuff the Silver in a lead-lined box with a nuclear warhead set to detonate when it hit the ocean floor and you wouldn’t even scratch it. It would reappear where someone in the Family would find it. No, the only way to destroy the Silver is to use a more powerful artifact.”
Mike stayed quiet for quite some time, so long, in fact, that I began to worry. Finally he said, “So you’re trying to destroy this silver thing by using an artifact that people have been trying to locate for centuries? Perhaps millennia?”
“Yes, Mike, I have to because the Silver is the biggest threat to mankind next to global thermonuclear war. It needs to go away and I should have investigated more thoroughly and taken action sooner.” Regret tasted bitter in my throat. “Because I twigged onto the Grail six months ago.”
A long pause. “Why didn’t you?”
I exploded in a rush of verbal self-recrimination. “Damn me, Mike … I was too comfortable, man.” When he didn’t reply, I continued. “And maybe a little scared, too. Nebraska isn’t the center of the universe, but it’s a good place to be.” Better, I felt much better. Maybe confession was good for the soul.
Mike stroked his moustache “So that’s where we’re going? To get the Grail?” I nodded and he blew a sigh through his lips. “The Archbishop will never believe this.”
“I really wouldn’t tell him if I were you.”
Once again that cold stare. “Why?”
“The Family has … people in the Vatican.”