"The Templar Legacy" by Steve Berry
 
Glock-packing monks dart in and out of locations in Europe as retired Justice Department operative turned antiquarian bookseller Cotton Malone gets into action-packed fisticuffs when his former boss Stephanie Nelle undertakes a personal mission.
A complicated narrative, the book involves cryptograms, historic clues, and the 19th century French cleric Abbé Saunière, whose name is borne by the curator who is murdered in "The Da Vinci Code." Berry’s densely detailed book is closest in style and content to "Da Vinci," and a previous Berry novel, "The Amber Room," drew Brown’s praise.  
 
Rating:
For a central and persistent Christian heresy based on a hidden gospel. Good thing Berry said in his author’s note the gospel was a fake, or someone might write a book rebutting it.
 
Bruce Willis is a little too old to play the action hero, and Tom Cruise has lost his sheen.
How about Denzel Washington? (If you're a man, add a fourth bucket.)
 
Too many characters nod too many times while listening to other characters give lengthy exposition, and too many adjectives are too tired (women are petite or vixens, villains are stocky). For those who cotton to Cotton, Berry promises three more books with the same cast of characters.
 
 
 
 
"The Passion of Mary Magdalen," by Elizabeth Cunningham
At 620 pages, this historical novel with fantasy overtones is as ample as the fleshy, redheaded Mary Magdalen depicted lolling on the cover. Flesh is the operative word. Cunningham’s Celtic Magdalene is a whore and priestess of Isis, as hot in the mouth as Irish whiskey.
Some may love the imagination that brings these characters down to earth with contemporary slang (Mary calls Jesus’ mother Mary “Ma,” Jesus says “oy vey,” Peter says “he’s freakin’ walkin’” as Jesus walks on the water). Those mainly interested in a picaresque retelling of the life of Jesus can skip the first 290 pages, which chronicle the Roman adventures of Mary after she is sold into prostitution as she journeys to seek her lover. This bawdy section will satisfy goddess adherents, who will also appreciate that this gabby book is the middle tome of a trilogy about this Celtic Magdalen.
 
Rating:
Not entirely heretical; while all his humanity is on display, Jesus’ divinity goes unchallenged.
 
Any screen adaptation will need to put it on a diet.
 
 What is lavish and lusty for some is for others overripe with detail.
 
 
 
 
"Magdalene" by Angela Hunt
 Not a thriller but a historical novel by bestselling evangelical Christian novelist Hunt, this book also postulates a passionate Mary Magdalene, but this Mary is motivated by revenge for a Roman atrocity visited on her family. She is also a skilled fabric dyer whose business acumen helps finance Jesus’ career.
 
Rating:
(0 pyres) Theological traditionalists and those who like uplifting reading will enjoy this re-imagination, depicting a powerful woman living in Jesus’ time and place.
 
It would make a good old-fashioned sword-and-sandals Easter season movie about faith and repentance, like "Ben-Hur" or "The Robe."
 
 Nicely plotted but sometimes slow moving.
 
One final note: Another bestselling evangelical Christian author, Karen Kingsbury, known for inspirational fiction, has written "Divine" a contemporary retelling of Mary Magdalen centered on a character named Mary Madison, director of an abused women’s shelter. It’s unfortunately preachy and melodramatic.