My Review Of The Brothers' Keeper: I loved this book. Great characters. Intriguing mystery. Branson is thrown into solving a murder, but discovers there is more. There is a treasure to be found. "So what do you think the Cathar treasure is and where is it? Jessica Jones keeps Branson on his toes and helps him follow the clues. I liked this excerpt: "We're all co-conspirators to some extent. We're all keepers' of the brothers. But I think our motives are different, maybe even better..." Thank you, Matthew, for a good read.
Most of us are familiar with Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph, and Jesus’ purported spouse, Mary Magdalene. But what about Jesus’ siblings? What role did they play in early Christianity?
Contemporary Jesuit and renowned religious historian Nicholas Branson is about to find out…and the answer will shake the foundations of the Judeo-Christian world.
It all starts with the murder of a United States Senator in a confessional, and the discovery of a strange religious document among his possessions. At the urging of his FBI friend, Branson joins the investigation. His effort to uncover the truth behind the murder draws him into the search for an eight-hundred-year-old treasure and into a web of ecclesiastical and political intrigue.
Accompanied by a beautiful, sharp-tongued research librarian, Jessica Jones, Branson follows a trail of clues, from the peaks of the awe inspiring French Pyrenees to the caves of war-torn Afghanistan. Along the way, shadowy powerful forces trail the pair, determined to keep safe a secret buried for centuries.
The man lit another cigar. “As hard as I try not to smoke these things, I just can’t seem to help myself. The treasure must have something to do with the Roman Catholic Church’s claim as God’s sole representative on earth. Nothing else makes sense. So, it has to be something that threatens their claim to such authority, and taking into account the involvement of secular powers, I think whatever it is threatens Judeo-Christian civilization as a whole.”
“How could anything bring down the dominant civilization?” Branson had thought of this often since his session with Rawlings.
“Among the world’s religions, Christianity is uniquely susceptible to having its underpinnings knocked out. Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism all developed slowly, along the lines of indigenous cultures. Without Mohammed, Islam would still live, as would Buddhism without Gautama. Christianity rests on one thing, the resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus was not raised from the dead, Christianity becomes a mere set of moral maxims, at best a good way to live one’s life, perhaps even a precursor to secular humanism. But if Jesus died and was raised from the dead, then Christianity has what other faiths only promise, the guarantee of eternal life in paradise.” Albert puffed on his cigar until it glowed fiercely. “And so, Doctor, another question. Is there proof of Jesus’ resurrection?”
Branson was on familiar ground now. “The Gospels give us eyewitness accounts. Mary Magdalene sees Jesus in the garden near his tomb. His disciples see him again in the Upper Room and elsewhere.”
Albert knocked his cigar ashes into the fireplace and smiled. “Let me ask you this: which Gospel is the oldest?”
“Mark, written around 70 AD. The next oldest is Matthew, followed by Luke, and finally John.”
“How does Mark, the earliest of the Gospels, end?”
“Tell me how Mark ends his story.”
Jessica joined in. “Three women go to Jesus’ tomb and find it empty. They meet a young man dressed in white who tells them that Jesus is risen. Then, not long after, he appears to the apostles.”
“Does she have it right, Dr. Branson?”
“Well, she’s pretty close. The three women go to the tomb, find it empty, and are told by the white-robed stranger that Jesus has risen. But…”
“Yes?” Albert pressed.
“The fact is the original version of Mark’s Gospel ends there. The material about Jesus appearing to the apostles, his ascent into heaven, was added later. But in the original, Mark makes no mention of any appearance of the resurrected Jesus.”
“Is an empty tomb proof of resurrection?” Albert asked. “Is hearing about the resurrection from a stranger proof? A rather shaky foundation to build a world religion on, n’est-ce pas? What about the testimony of the Roman guards? Of course they agreed with the resurrection story. If they’d admitted to falling asleep, or leaving their posts, or getting drunk, they would have lost more than their jobs. Just an empty tomb does not a resurrection make.”
“No, but that doesn’t mean the resurrection and appearance to the apostles didn’t happen.” Branson sounded more defensive than he’d intended. He didn’t feel himself to be in a strong position to serve as apologist for the Church, not here and now.
Jessica cleared her throat. “So, let’s ask a different question. What would constitute proof that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead?”
Branson let the objective scholar within take over from the Catholic believer. Under the circumstances, he was certainly glad he had the ability to do so. “Well, off the top of my head, I’d say finding his bones.”
“Very good,” Albert said, puffing away on his cigar. “But is that really the case? Old bones in some ossuary. How would you prove they’re the bones of Jesus Christ? Highly unlikely. So proving Jesus died is probably not the threat.”
“Isn’t there anything else that might challenge the foundation of Christianity?” Jessica asked.
Branson thought for a moment. “I suppose something that brought into doubt the virgin birth or the crucifixion.”
“Very good, Dr. Branson,” Albert said in between puffs of his cigar.
“Also very unlikely,” Branson admitted. “How can you prove the virgin birth? It’s not like Mary went around town saying, ‘Look at me, I’m the Virgin Mary.’ That title was bestowed upon her by the Church hundreds of years after her death. Unless you could find the equivalent of a two thousand year old birth certificate, or a paternity test from Joseph you’d be hard pressed to disprove it. And even if we allow for the fact that Jesus had siblings, as he clearly did from what the Gospels tell us, there is nothing to say that he wasn’t the eldest, and thus Mary could still have been a virgin at his birth, while the other children were conceived by Joseph.”
“What of the crucifixion?” Albert said.
“How can that be proved?”
“Well, I suppose you could find the cross upon which Jesus was crucified, or the nails used to affix him to the cross, or the crown of thorns he wore. However, proving any of that is next to impossible. The Romans crucified thousands and there is no way to tell from the remnants of wood who was crucified on a particular cross, the nails that were used, or the crown that was worn.” Branson thought for a moment. “So what do you think the Cathar treasure is, and where is it?”
Albert blew smoke rings into the cabin’s stale air. “Those are exactly the questions we hope you can help us answer, Dr. Branson. Will you join us in our efforts?”
1. Tell us about your book and how the story came to be.
The Brothers’ Keepers is a political-religious thriller that asks (and posits an answer to) the question of what role Jesus’ siblings played in the rise of Christianity. The story came to be by essentially asking myself a series of what if questions.
2. What three words best describe your main character?
My main character, a Jesuit named Nicholas Branson, is best described by the words intelligent, brave, and flawed. He is intelligent by nature and an expert in the history of Christianity. He is brave because he is not afraid to take controversial stances on issues, confront wrongdoing, or meet challenges head-on. Finally, he is flawed—though vulnerable is probably a better word—because he is a recovering alcoholic.
3. Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
I use character sketches to develop the basic attributes of my characters. I think they are believable because I try to ascertain not only things like age, ethnicity, and occupation, but their fears and values as well. I also try to make sure they are flawed in some way, mostly because I believe we are all flawed to some degree.
4. Do your characters follow your plot path or do they take on a life of their own? Do you keep them in check?
I plot a general line which the characters follow, largely due to the nature of the genre. But there are times when they refuse to follow the script and go off and do their own thing, which I let them do and try to record as objectively as possible.
5. Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? If so, how did you overcome it?
Yes, I have suffered from writer’s block, though I would call it the writing blahs, as my problem is not so much being unable to write, but sometimes being unwilling. I use a variety of strategies to overcome this state. First, I realize it is okay to feel the way I do—feeling guilty only compounds things. Oftentimes, I’ll take a break, because I believe in the need for breaks. Other ways I try to overcome the writing blahs are reading books on writing, reading poetry, and exercising. What I try to do mostly when such a feeling hits is to fall in love with the writing process all over again.
6. What types of books do you like to read?
I like 19th century Russian literature, and I like twentieth century writers, such as Hesse, Mann, Hemingway, McCullers, Camus, Cheever, Capote, and Plath.
7. What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
I like reading novels or reading about writing. I also like listening to classical music.
8. What’s next for your writing? Are you working on a new story?
I am working on the next books in the Nicholas Branson series.
9. What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received?
Writing is rewriting.
10. Where can readers find you and your books?
The Brothers' Keepers is available for pre-order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and MuseItUp Publishing:http://www.matthewpetersbooks.com/the-brothers-keepers/. I encourage you to visit my website/blog:http://www.matthewpetersbooks.com/. I can also be found on Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/matthew.peters.79656, and Twitter: https://twitter.com/MatthewPeters65.
Matthew Peters is a writer living in North Carolina. In writing The Brothers' Keepers he has combined his knowledge of politics (Ph.D. in Political Science, Duke University) with extensive research into the origins of Christianity. The Brothers' Keepers is his first published novel. Another novel, Conversations Among Ruins is forthcoming through All Things That Matter Press. Currently he is working on the next book in the Nicholas Branson series.