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Thriller Award-winner Sandford ventures into Da Vinci Code territory in his clever, quirky seventh Virgil Flowers novel (after 2012's Mad River). When an archeological dig in Israel turns up a stele-an inscribed piece of stone-with the potential to shake the roots of Biblical faith, Elijah Jones, a college professor who fears he's dying, steals the precious artifact and flees home to Mankuto, Minn. Virgil, a Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Investigation agent, at first simply attempts to recover the stolen object, but soon finds himself trying to outwit mercenary Turks as well as agents of the Mossad, Hezbollah, and Texas gazillionares, all of whom want the artifact for their own purposes. Despite the bloodthirsty fanaticism the participants display, the quest for the stone provides many opportunities for cross-cultural verbal confusion and violent slapstick. Though attracted to a sexy local criminal who's become Jones's accomplice, the exasperated Virgil mainly tries to stop the commotion before anyone gets seriously hurt. Unusually good-natured intrigue distinguishes this outing. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.