Title: Absolute Proof
Author: Peter James
Date Published: October 2018
Length: 570 pages
Peter James is better known as a crime writer with his Roy Grace series of detective novels. I have not yet read any of them so I came to this standalone title without any knowledge of his crime series but as someone who does believe in God so I was drawn to the premise of the book out of curiosity.
Academic Dr Harry Cook contacts journalist Ross Hunter claiming to have absolute proof of God’s existence. The rest of the book involves Hunter’s search for this evidence via Glastonbury, Egypt and America, encountering friends and foes along the way.
A host of interested parties shadow Hunter’s journey for their own ends including the archetypal corrupt wealthy evangelist, a staunch atheist scientist (and head of a major pharmaceutical company), a blind Muslim cleric, a Bishop and the Archbishop of Canterbury, reclusive monks, the Security Services and of course the Vatican!
Hunter has a fractious relationship with his partner/wife Imogen as Hunter is both sceptical of his search and curious enough to pursue it, even at the cost of his family security. Imogen, who we’re told is a Christian, is more concerned with the practicalities of family safety over Hunter’s search which puts them all in danger.
Absolute Proof has inevitably been compared to Dan Brown but I think this is unfair as where Brown tends to over sensationalise James keeps things more grounded. The book isn’t without faults as I think it’s a bit too long, some characters are quite one dimensional and there are several plot holes, perhaps understandable given the topic!
It starts well but I found the middle sections plodded a bit but then took off from about three quarters of the way through when the tension and revelations increased. The ending was fascinating if a little bit underwhelming and I’ll admit, without giving away spoilers, that with the direction one of Hunter’s pursuers was taking towards the end I thought the scene was set for a very different dramatic event than the meteorological worldwide phenomena which ended the book but this never materialised. There are several plot lines that weren’t explained properly such as the atheist scientist who is conducting an experiment which he hopes will show the universe was created by chance and God doesn’t exist. I was left wondering why, even if the experiment was successful, that would mean God didn’t exist?
James doesn’t seem to have any axe to grind himself re God’s existence or otherwise but does a good job of presenting theological information in a mostly reasoned and non preachy way. Curiously, in the after notes, James says he found this the hardest book he’s ever written but also the one he’s learned most from.
It would be a good choice for a reading group and there’s a good section of further reading at the end from reputable academics rather than the pseudoscience frequently associated with this genre. For instance while Richard Dawkins is as expected mentioned in the list of books James read for research, so are reputable theologians and academics including Alister McGrath, Ravi Zacharias, Amy Orr-Ewing, John Polkinghorne and John Lennox, while Antony Flew and Dawkins are name dropped within the story itself.
If you like this genre it’s worth a read.
Review via NetGalley/Pan Macmillan ARC.
Thanks for reading.