Books & Bonbons: MJ Rose’s REINCARNATIONIST – Read an Excerpt!
By SMW Staff
Two great thrillers, by M.J. Rose. Two enthralling excerpts. Read the first one, THE REINCARNATIONIST, here…
Photojournalist Josh Ryder survives a terrorist’s bomb, only to be haunted by near hallucinatory memories of a past life in Rome as a pagan priest whose dangerous congress with Sabina, one of the Vestal Virgins, poses a transgression so serious the lovers will face a certain death if exposed. Scents of jasmine and sandalwood and images of furtive liaisons and violence descend on Josh at will, pulling him to an ancient yet strangely familiar Roman burial chamber harboring the remains of a woman clutching a wooden box.
A trail of present-day murders takes us deeper into a labyrinth at whose heart lies the enigma of a collection of ancient gems or memory stones whose origins trace back to both ancient Egypt and India. The stones’ promise to “assist the wearer in reaching his next incarnation” sets the ancient and modern worlds on a collision course.
The questions of who we are cannot be asked without first asking who we were. And I’ve tried to answer that using my own research into reincarnation theory – as well as the tenets and writings of those who have studied and believed in reincarnation over thousands of years.…
They will come back, come back again,
As long as the red earth rolls.
He never wasted a leaf or a tree.
Do you think he would squander souls?
Rome, Italy – Sixteen Months Ago
Josh Ryder looked through the camera’s viewfinder, focusing on the security guard arguing with a young mother whose hair was dyed so red it looked like she was on fire. The search of the woman’s baby carriage was quickly becoming anything but routine, and Josh moved in closer for his next shot.
He’d just been keeping himself busy while awaiting the arrival of a delegation of peacekeepers from several superpowers who would be meeting with the Pope that morning, but like several other members of the press and tourists who’d been ignoring the altercation or losing patience with it, he was becoming concerned. Although searches went on every hour, every day, around the world, the potential for danger hung over everyone’s lives, lingering like the smell of fire.
In the distance the sonorous sound of a bell ringing called the religious to prayer, its echo out of sync with the woman’s shrill voice as she continued to protest. Then, with a huge shove, she pushed the carriage against the guard’s legs, and just as Josh brought the image into that clarity he called “perfect vision,” the kind of image that the newspaper would want, the kind of conflict they loved captured on film, he heard the blast.
Then, a flash of bluish white light.
The next moment, the world exploded.
In the protective shadows of the altar, Julius and his brother whispered, reviewing their plans for the last part of the rescue and recovery. Each of them kept a hand on his dagger, prepared in case one of the Emperor’s soldiers sprung out of the darkness. In Rome, in the Year of their Lord 391, temples were no longer sanctuaries for pagan priests. Converting to Christianity was not a choice, but an official mandate. Resisting was a crime punishable by death. Blood spilled in the name of the Church was not a sin, it was the price of victory.
The two brothers strategized-Drago would stay in the temple for an hour longer and then rendezvous with Julius at the tomb at the city gates. As a diversion, that morning’s elaborate funeral had been a success, but they were still worried. Everything depended on this last part of their strategy going smoothly.
Julius drew his cape closed, touched his brother’s shoulder, bidding him goodbye and good luck, and skulked out of the basilica, keeping to the building’s edge in case anyone was watching. He heard approaching horses and the clatter of wheels. Flattening himself against the stone wall, Julius held his breath and didn’t move. The chariot passed without stopping.
He’d finally reached the edge of the porch when, behind him, like a sudden avalanche of rocks, he heard an angry shout split open the silence: “Show me where the treasury is!”
This was the disaster Julius and his brother had feared and discussed, but Drago had been clear – even if the temple was attacked, Julius was to continue on. Not turn back. Not try to help him. The treasure Julius needed to save was more important than any one life or any five lives or any fifty lives.
But then a razor sharp cry of pain rang out and, ignoring the plan, he ran back through the shadows, into the temple and up to the altar.
His brother was not where he’d left him.
Where was he?
Julius worked his way down one of the dark side aisles of the temple and up the next. When he found Drago, it wasn’t by sound or by sight – but by tripping over his brother’s supine body.
He pulled him closer to the flickering torches. Drago’s skin was already deathly pale, and his torn robe revealed a six-inch horizontal slash on his stomach crossing a vertical gash that cut him all the way down to his groin.
Julius gagged. He’d seen eviscerated carcasses of both man and beast before and had barely given them a passing glance. Sacrifices, felled soldiers or punished criminals were one thing. But this was Drago. This blood was his blood.
“You weren’t. supposed to come back,” Drago said, dragging every syllable out as if it was stuck in his throat. “I sent him. to look in the loculi. for the treasures. I thought. stabbed me anyway. But there’s time. for us to get out. now… now!” Drago struggled to raise himself up to a sitting position, spilling his insides as he moved.
Julius pushed him down.
“Now. we need. to go now.” Drago’s voice was weakening.
Trying to staunch the blood flow, Julius put pressure on the laceration, willing the intestines and nerves and veins and skin to rejoin and fuse back together, but all he accomplished was staining his hands in the hot, sticky mess.
“Where are the virgins?” The voice erupted like Vesuvius without warning and echoed through the interior nave. Raucous laughter followed.
How many soldiers were there?
“Let’s find the booty we came here for first,” another voice chimed in.
“Not yet, first I want one of the virgins. Where are the virgin whores?”
“The treasury first, you lecherous bastard.”
So it wasn’t one man; a regiment had stormed the temple. Shouting, demanding, blood-lust coating their words. Let them pillage this place, let them waste their energy, they’d come too late: there were no pagans to conver