My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The plot: University Professor David Shepherd, raised in the Jewish faith but for years a nonparticipant, becomes a key player in thwarting an evil plot to destroy the world. Following a childhood accident, David somehow became a channel for a higher power, and for years he’s been recording names that come to his awareness in strange ways. Come to find out, they are the names of the 36 “pure souls” that have lived in every generation, without whom life on earth would end. The conspirators have murdered all but 3 of these souls, and David is stunned to learn that his stepdaughter is one of those who survive. He undertakes a quest to save her life (and, incidentally, save the planet.)
The characters: David is incredibly naive for a man of his background and experience. He is assisted in the quest by a beautiful and brainy Israeli woman, and eventually, by a team of rabbis in Jerusalem who devote their lives to studying the kabbala, and at present, The Book of Names, said to have been written by Adam himself. The villain, a childhood acquaintance of David, could have stepped from the pages of Harry Potter. The team of “Dark Angels”, who carry out the evil designs of the cabal leaders, are uniformly, well, thuggish.
The writing: It’s not easy to transition from nonfiction to fiction writing, and it shows in The Book of Names. Descriptions are simplistic (“Sweat dripped from his armpits”),and dialogue trite (“We gotta get outta here!” and “There’s only one way to find out; I’m going in!”. Repeatedly, the authors (inadvertently, I’d suppose) telegraph what happens next, and the book’s ending is a foregone conclusion.