Relic is unashamedly indebted to Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, which it lists in its bibliography, along with The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, whose authors famously sued Dan Brown for plagiarism – unsuccessfully, because they claimed their work was nonfiction and one cannot copyright history.
In Tom Egeland’s reworking of the story, the Guardians of the ancient secret are the Knights of St John, not the Templars (no great change), and the secret itself is the same as in The Holy Blood, that Jesus did not die on the Cross but survived and retired to the south of France. The hero is once again a puzzled academic, but he is also a seriously neurotic, sexually frustrated, albino, Norwegian archaeologist. The story is narrated in the first person in a terse, sardonic, self-mocking style. I’m not sure if this is not a spoof on the Da Vinci Code, but it is an entertaining page-turner, and the reader learns a lot about the Gospel of St Mark.