P.T. Deutermann Uncovers New Treasure with The Last Man
- Wednesday, June 06, 2012
Author: P. T. Deutermann
Title: The Last Man
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
In spring of 1981, ABC aired a miniseries about the historical siege of Masada, the summer palace and fortress of King Herod the Great in the Judean desert. The four night drama told the story of the Jewish Zealots called the Sicarii who fled Jerusalem in 69 A.D. to take refuge at Masada as the Romans were sacking Jerusalem and destroying the Second Temple. It took the Romans three years to breach Masada's defenses by building a ramp and attacking the wall with a battering ram.
What they found when they entered the fortress was 960 dead Masada inhabitants who had committed mass suicide rather than be tortured and made slaves by the Romans. The miniseries, and the story, left a big impact on me as a teenage viewer. These days each member of the Israeli Defense Force is sworn in to active service, after their basic training is complete, on the top of Masada with the declaration, "Masada shall not fall again."
P. T. Deutermann begins his story in the early morning of that fateful day when the Romans breach the wall. One man, Judah Sicarius, has been chosen to be "The Last Man" and make the final rounds of the fortress ensuring that everyone is dead. If he finds anyone that had not been able to take their own life he is to do it for them. Then, and only then, he has one last directive - to lower himself down into one of the water cisterns sealing it and its contents from the invaders. With his torch burning out Judah writes his story on the side of the cistern wall and then falls on his own dagger.
The novel then shifts to the current day where American David Hall takes a trip to Israel for the purpose of doing some investigative work at Masada. Though he is neither an archeologist nor a historian he has reasons to believe that Sicarii committed suicide for more reasons than just deprive the Romans from their butchery. He thinks they also died to protect a secret hidden in the depths of Masada, a treasure that has yet to be rediscovered. His dilemma, though, is to try and gain access to the mountain to find the hidden cistern, while not alerting anyone else of his plans or any discoveries.
Providing much less than a full disclosure of his purposes Hall obtains reluctant permission from both governmental and academic authorities to explore Masada, but they don't trust him to be alone. They assign an archaeologist, Dr. Judith Ressner, to be his both his guide and shadow. Since the two of them have both lost the significant others in their lives it is natural that their initial mistrust of each other gives way to attraction.
While The Last Man sometimes bogs down in details it is a surprising adventure novel with growing suspense to the very end. Deutermann not only gives the payoff that the readers expect is coming but also includes some very clever twists that a Christian audience will enjoy.
*This Review First Published 6/6/2012
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