Readers’ Favorite review, Bone Box

Readers’ Favorite has given Bone Box a five-star review:

This story takes you on an incredible and dusty journey from Istanbul to ancient Ephesus, Izmir, and Cappadocia, blended with Christianity, archaeology and Islam, described with accurate detail to bring the story alive.

Jay Amberg’s Bone Box is an extremely well researched and well thought out book. The story gives you incredibly detailed and visual pictures of Turkey. Jay Amberg is a master of description and intrigue, and does not paint you into a corner when explaining things; the plot and characters are believable and interesting. When reading the book you have to keep going to find out what will happen next. It is a real page turner, one that keeps you guessing through each and every chapter. A cross between The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown) and The Sign of the Cross (Chris Kuzneski) this is an “un-put-downable” book of the highest quality.

What do you think of the latest review? Please let me know by leaving a comment.

I am currently in Turkey and hope to write more about my time here soon.

Just Reviews, Bone Box

Bone Box has been acclaimed by Fran Lewis of Just Reviews: “…will mystify, entrance, enthrall and captive readers.” You can read the full review here. Thank you so much, Fran.

Just Reviews

The Bone Box: Jay Amberg

Within this novel there are many conflicts not just the one faced by archeologist Sophia Altay. Altay finds with the help of her assistants an ossuary that within it has relics and documents that date back to early Christianity and could change our understanding if what is written on these documents is revealed. But, as the story opens Joe Travers is being sent to assess the dig, find out what is really happening there and possibly be told to terminate Sophia’s reign as director of the dig. The search for the contents of the ossuary, which was hidden by her assistant, sets the tone for this novel. Abrahim her assistant follows her every guideline and what is uncovered would change his life and others too.

The author describes each scene in a very different manner as the reader can feel the heat, the warmth, and…

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Bone Box excerpt 2: The Curtain Wall

Joseph Travers, the novel’s main character, is an American who has come to Ayasuluk Hill in Turkey to evaluate the Saint John’s Cathedral archeological site. This scene takes place early in the morning after his arrival in Selçuk.

Travers wakes from a dream of tunnels, caverns, and subterranean cities. Lost in a labyrinth lit only by flickering votive candles, he makes his way along stone corridors lined with images of saints so faded that the red of their robes and the gold of their halos are barely visible. The passageways widen and narrow in a pattern he can’t figure out. Intermittently, shadows sweep the periphery of his vision, but he remains alone. The ground beneath his bare feet is sometimes smooth flagstones and sometimes gritty cinders. The air blows hot, then becomes cool and still, then sultry, then dank. Behind the sweet odor of melting wax lurks a mustiness, as though he has stepped into an ancient vault recently opened. Broken wheelbarrows, discarded shovels, heaps of potsherds, and rows of dark plastic bottles line the walls. And piles of children’s bones lie at each of the domed intersections.

Sweating and disoriented, he rolls over on the bed and stares at the ceiling. Birds are chirping over the rattle of the air conditioner, but he blinks only darkness. He sits up and squints at the digital alarm—4:47. He’s at the Hitit Hotel on the main road at the outskirts of Selçuk in southern Turkey, not in some macabre underground maze. When he returned to the hotel from Sophia Altay’s house, he saw Charles Lee swimming laps in the pool. Lee had an efficient, even mechanical, stroke, and he didn’t notice Travers. Travers had a far greater need to walk than talk so he left the hotel. The road was busy at first, but none of the passing vehicles even slowed to check out the solitary rambler. An hour out of town, as the traffic subsided and the stars spread around a quarter moon, his mind traveled back along the path he had so often trod the last three years…

Now, Travers wobbles to his feet, teeters into the bathroom, and turns on the light, which buzzes before snapping brightness all about him. By the time he returned to the hotel around midnight, the bar was closed and the lobby empty. His Amish phone held no messages from Altay or Kirchburg or Lee or anyone else, and so he went to sleep only to wake at the subterranean labyrinth. Now, despite his nocturnal trek and his lack of sleep, he’s wired. The face in the mirror looks haggard, but the eyes gleam. He douses himself with cold water in the shower and brushes his teeth. His fingers and toes tingle. He isn’t exactly hyperventilating, but his breathing is quick. When he pulls on shorts and a T-shirt, his legs and arms quiver. His feet prickle in his walking shoes as he goes down the stairs and out into first light.

The moon is still well up. Cars and trucks pass him at intervals, slapping the cool air and splashing light across the pavement. A man on a black bicycle peddles by. A cock’s crowing interrupts traditional Turkish music playing somewhere among the flat-roofed buildings at the base of Ayasuluk Hill. Though the sun isn’t yet up, the citadel holds light. A tour bus with tinted windows blows past him. A single, large black-winged bird soars like a shadow.

The jangling in his hands and feet abates as he walks into town, but he still feels disjointed. Women with scarved heads huddle silently near a flatbed truck with its motor running and its exhaust pipe belching blue-gray fog. A block farther on, men slouch smoking on a wooden wagon hitched to a tractor. Travers’ breathing doesn’t calm until he makes the turn toward the cathedral’s gate. A mangy black dog tracks him, wagging its tail and barking, but no boys are selling Roman coins.

To dispel the dream, Travers needs to be above ground and in the open—and he wants to feel the sunrise. The gate is shut, but, remembering the rock, he pushes hard against the door. It scrapes back an inch so he puts his weight into it. When he gets it open a foot, he slides through the opening. He shuts the gate and shoves the rock back in place. As he walks past the ticket booth and up into the ruins, birds sing in the pines. Light tips the marble columns ahead of him, but the partially restored brick walls are dim silhouettes. When he reaches higher ground, he looks over Selçuk’s roofs to the eastern hills limned with light.

He sits on a stone bench in the western courtyard so that he can watch first light traverse the fields and orchards out to the Aegean. He presses his palms against the cool stone and rocks slowly, feeling the breeze on his face. Birds begin swooping forays to his left, and up through the pines on his right a light is on in Altay’s house. The sun tricks him, flashing first on the distant water and then igniting the hills above Ephesus before touching the back of his neck. Still unable to shake the dream despite the sun’s warmth, he stands and climbs onto the top of the curtain wall. He sets his feet apart and stretches his arms as if to bid the dawn some pagan greeting. He raises his eyes to the pale gold sky, and then he glances down.

The body lies crumpled on the rocks at the base of the wall sixty feet below. One black shoe is missing. The legs of the pants are askew, the bulky torso contorted, and the white shirt stained dark at the collar. The head is twisted to the side, the bald skull split as though Sirhan dove to the boulders. Blood discolors his mustache above his frozen grimace. Travers’ breath catches. He drops to his knees and teeters forward as though he, too, is going to plummet from the curtain wall.

Kirkus Reviews, Bone Box

Kirkus Reviews has just written about Bone Box. What do you think of the review?

A novel of danger and adventure about an archaeological discovery that threatens to rewrite biblical history.

Amberg’s (America’s Fool, 2012, etc.) thriller takes readers to Turkey, where Joe Travers, a former Motorola executive, visits an archaeological site funded in part by his friend’s foundation. Joe finds the project riven by conflicts between Sophia Altay, the Turkish-French lead archaeologist, who quickly wins him over; Leopold Kirchburg, the Austrian project director with a considerable ego; and Charles Lee, who represents right-wing foundations that provide much of the financial support. The archaeologists discover an ossuary containing relics and documents that could substantially change humanity’s understanding of early Christianity.

The search for the ossuary’s contents—which were hidden by Sophia’s devoted assistant, Abrahim—drives much of the book’s plot. Scenes of beatings, killings, and chases are punctuated by moments of extreme emotion; for example, at one point, Joe is “already in a quandary, the balance between the breathtaking beauty of the day and the sordid affairs of men not at all clear”; at another, Abrahim’s “blood boils—the Janissary blood, the blood of his lost ancestors, the wanderers and cave dwellers alike.”

In Joe, Amberg offers a narrator who’s a keen observer, which allows the story to blend archaeological intrigue with a sharply drawn portrait of urban and rural Turkey. There are some clever turns of phrase, as when Joe notes that a document displayed on a computer screen is “illuminated in a way that would shock medieval monks.”…The author keeps the tension high…as Joe rushes to sort out everyone’s motivations and loyalties. Readers will be too caught up in unraveling the plot to wonder about the unanswered questions regarding the ossuary’s contents.

A…well-written, fast-paced thriller that follows in the footsteps of The Da Vinci Code and Indiana Jones.

Bone Box excerpt 1: Uncovering the Ossuary

I’m happy to announce that Amika Press has just published Bone Box, my thriller/mystery novel set at an archaeological site in Turkey. It is available at Amazon and the Amika Press website, on Kindle, and coming soon to Barnes & Noble, iBook, Kobo and Nook.

Here is an excerpt from the book’s second chapter. I would love to find out what you think. Please let me know.

The sky is cobalt, but the sun is already low—and little light reaches the trench in which the two men work. The evening air is hot and still as though it has hung there for centuries. Sweat soaks the stout man’s sleeveless T-shirt and mats the gray and white hair on his arms and shoulders. His nose is bulbous above his mustache, the top of his head bald except for long strands of hair hanging limply over his left ear. He grunts as he pushes dirt aside with his trowel. The taller, younger man is more careful, but he, too, breathes hard as he whisks dirt with his brush. The discovery, far more than the exertion, is taking his breath. He is clean-shaven; his features are fine, his black hair thick. Neither man speaks until they have completely uncovered the ancient ossuary, the bone box.

When the stout man stands, his head is still well below the trench line. He stabs the trowel into a pile of dirt, wipes his grimy hands on his pants, pulls up the front of his shirt, and smears the sweat from his face. He picks up an empty plastic water bottle, glares at it, and tosses it next to the trowel. The younger man sets his hands on his hips, catches his breath, and stares at the ossuary. The bone box, a meter long and seventy centimeters wide, seems to glow even in the trench’s shadows. Although he can’t read the words etched into the stone, he recognizes them as Aramaic. The symbols—the equal-armed cross within the circle within the six-pointed star—are familiar, but their juxtaposition is not.

As the call to prayer begins, a cirrus horsetail swirls through the rectangle of sky. The voice barely carries into the trench, but the two men turn and stand still. The heavy man murmurs prayers, and the thin one bows his head in silence, his prayer of a different sort. A prayer of both gratitude and supplication. A prayer that this ossuary is what he yearns for it to be. The cloud’s wispy tail snaps clear.

When the echo of prayer ceases, the stout man squats and digs his fingers under the corners of the bone box.

“Wait!” the young man says in Turkish. “She should be here. We must wait for her.”

Glowering across the box, the stout man grabs the hand-pick he used earlier.

“No!” The young man stoops and presses his palms on the ossuary’s lid. “She must open it.” His face reddens, and his fingers burn as though the ossuary is too sacred, too hallowed, too inviolable, to be touched by humans.

The stout man swings the pick across the young man’s knuckles.

The young man leaps back, his eyes wide. His mouth opens, but words don’t form. Blood beads on the index and middle fingers of his right hand.

The stout man leans over and jams the pick’s tip under the rim of the ossuary’s lid. As he pushes the handle with both hands, getting his weight into it, the lid creaks open. Keeping the pick in place as a wedge, he kneels and runs his stubby fingers under the lid. Stale air rises as he lifts the lid, holds it to his sweating chest, and stares into the box.

Despite himself, despite his stinging fingers and welling tears, the young man steps forward and peers into the box. Making the sign of the cross repeatedly, he takes a series of deep breaths in an unsuccessful attempt to calm himself. Blood trickles down his hand and drops, bright splotches darkening into sandy soil. Blinding sacrosanct light rises from the ossuary, weaving around them and spiraling from the trench. He glances at the stout man who is unable to see the light, runs his hand through his hair, and gazes back into the box. He cannot draw his eyes from the contents, though his pupils might at any second be seared and his skin peel away. The moment is every bit as frightening as it is exhilarating. His blood boils—the Janissary blood, the blood of his lost ancestors, the wanderers and cave dwellers alike. There is much more to this even than he imagined, much more to it than she will at first believe.