The Scroll and the Parchment is a departure from Jerome Ostrov’s soon to be completed trilogy of World War II novels. But, aided by its Jewish historical theme, the novel, as was true of its predecessors, is intended both to inform and instill a sense of pride in Jewish history and achievement.
The novel is set shortly before the global pandemic. The world has now found itself at the threshold of a cataclysm of a different kind – a besieged Israel prepared to use any means at its disposal to counter the increasingly bellicose actions of an Iran intent on relieving domestic pressure by attacking the Jewish state. The story opens with the double murders of wealthy Westchester financier, Maury Steinthaler, and his Egyptian visitor, Yousef Tadros, and then focuses on Maury’s saddened but stained widow who suddenly finds herself the key suspect in the murders. From there, the plot weaves between two storylines – one, ancient, and one contemporary.
The ancient centers on the infant Jesus and his family, their flight into Egypt from a murderous Herod, and the Judean hero who makes the escape possible and later rescues the infant from certain death. The pre-pandemic present describes the discovery of two ancient codices – a papyrus scroll rescued from the remains of a bombed Coptic cathedral, and a parchment chronicle retrieved from the wreckage of an ancient Roman vessel. Together, the finds provide corroborating accounts of the miraculous events that occurred in the Egyptian desert during Jesus’ escape – events that are perceived in very different ways by the forces of two world views, one intent on enlightenment and the other on destruction.
As the present-day story evolves, so does the locale of the various subplots, including the Westchester County site of the murder investigation; Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, where the decedent’s son, Malcolm Steinthaler, and his former classics professor, Jeffrey Leibowitz, attempt to discern the message of a thumb drive brought by the murdered Tadros; the Egyptian desert site of an ancient monastery where the Metropolitan Touma Salib, a renowned Coptic bishop, struggles to preserve and verify the two architectural finds, while also dealing with his own pressing issues of love and identity; and the wealthy precincts of Doha, Qatar, where Khalid Al Muhammadi, a doyen of Qatari society, heads the SFMA, a terrorist network intent on undermining Israel’s standing with the West.
As the clues point toward the authenticity of the finds, a race with globe-shaking implications takes place pitting, Malcolm, Jeffrey, and Touma against Khalid and his terrorist henchmen.