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The Omega Factor

Review

The Omega Factor

Quite frankly, you don’t just read a Steve Berry book --- you experience it. His latest, THE OMEGA FACTOR, is no exception.

The Prologue takes us all the way back to the year 1428 as we see a man on horseback frantically being chased by a bunch of others. His name is Jan van Eyck, and he is a famous painter. He manages to outpace his pursuers and is taken in by a clandestine group of nuns. Once inside, he notices that one of the symbols they have hanging is a fleur-de-lys. Van Eyck is about to become privy to just one of several secrets that are revealed within these pages, which makes experiencing this book so much fun.

"Steve Berry has produced the most brilliant premise of all for the book's finale.... You can just feel the research and historical context dripping off of each and every page."

In the present day, we are introduced to Nicholas Lee, who works for the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). He is in Ghent, Belgium, where he meets up with his former fiancée, who is now Sister Kelsey Deal. Not long after, he witnesses a black-robed figure kick her in the midsection, grab something from her and run off. Over in Carcassonne, France, we find two other important characters (I suggest readers get a scorecard to keep track of the players here): Bernat de Foix and Andre Labelle.

Bernat is outlining Andre’s initiation into his special religious sect, which we know is going to have quite an impact on the novel’s proceedings. They are heading out to take part in a feast that dates back to July 22, 1209: the Feast Day of St. Mary Magdalene. It was from here that the group later known as the Cathari, or Cathars, originated. The Roman Church tried and failed to ban them at one time, but by 1209 they had taken hold. In modern day, the few remaining Cathars, or Perfecti, devotees who still practice include Bernat and Andre.

The major item in question in this novel is a 15th-century piece of art created by van Eyck and his brother, Hubert: The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb --- or, as it is more commonly known, the Ghent Altarpiece. Originally done over 12 oak panels measuring a total of 17 feet in length, its pieces have been stolen, swapped and moved around throughout history. Most famously, they were captured by Hitler and the Nazis during WWII and freed by the famous team known as the Monuments Men. It has the distinction of being the most violated piece of artwork in the history of the world.

Throughout the book, one panel of the Ghent Altarpiece has resurfaced, and several different groups are eyeing it. Nick is investigating because the man assigned to restore the panel was murdered. Similar to the Cathars, another religious sect that had a relationship with van Eyck was the aforementioned clandestine group of nuns known as les Vautours, or the Vultures. They were all maidens like their hero, Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans.

Of course, none of this could exist without the Catholic Church playing a role as they always have. We hear from Archbishop Gerard Vilamur, who has a personal vendetta against the Cathars, and Bernat in particular, which I will not reveal here. There is also long-standing historical differences between the Vultures and the Catholic Church, with the treatment of Joan of Arc at the center of that debacle. However, the best is indeed saved for last.

Steve Berry has produced the most brilliant premise of all for the book's finale. As I stated before, any novel of his is an experience. You can just feel the research and historical context dripping off of each and every page. He always takes the time to separate fact from fiction at the end of his books, and it never ceases to amaze me how much is indeed factual.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on June 17, 2022

The Omega Factor
by Steve Berry

  • Publication Date: June 7, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1538720949
  • ISBN-13: 9781538720943