Iscariot: A Novel of Judas by Tosca Lee

Pico was bathing his belly when I interrupted him for this pic.
Pico was bathing his belly when I interrupted him for this pic.

Why I Read It: I am always fascinated to hear the story from the ‘bad guy’.

Where I Got It: Review copy from the publisher (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: Historical Fiction aficionados with an interest in this time period.

Narrator: Jason Culp

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (2013)

Length: 8 CDs

This is the tale of Judas, the one who betrayed Jesus for 30 silver coins. We are introduced to him as a six-year old boy caught in a militant clash of cultures as the Romans seek to subdue the area, raiding his village for supplies and slaves, killing many by hanging them on crosses. Judas and his mother flee the area eventually making their way to Jerusalem where Judas becomes a well-respected man well versed in Judean law. He has a career, a pregnant wife, and a future. But he looses it all and ends up following self-proclaimed Messiahs around, seeking some purpose to his life.

I am not a Christian, and therefore, not well versed in the this time period. Tosca Lee told this story simply: of a traumatized boy who became a successful young man who became a pivotal character in a major world religion. I have always enjoyed reading a well known tale from the viewpoint of the ‘bad guy’. Learning the characters life history and their motivations makes the over all tale that much more real for me. Tosca Lee does not disappoint. This book has a historical fiction feel to it and I did not feel that it was preachy at all.

There were other famous, learned men of the time named Judas. As there were other men named Jesus. The use of the secret society idea added weight to Judas’s decisions and his fears. I especially enjoyed the various culture clashes as seen through Judas’s eyes: Jesus the Messiah taught, fed, and healed not just the learned or rich, but the lowliest of classes and women and those not of the Jewish faith. One by one these things shocked Judas, who eventually saw the right of it. Some few references I did not fully understand, like when a few ill men move their mat on the Sabbath. But these few instances did not detract from the over all enjoyability of the book.

My one negative point is that the book became narrowly focused towards the end, whereas the beginning brought me knowledge of the cultures and political climate of the time. Indeed, my mind started to drift on the last CD, the CD where we have the ending of Jesus’s life, his confirmation of Messiah-hood, and Judas’s death. This should have, at the least, been as interesting as the beginning of the book. Instead, it was not. In retrospect, perhaps the author wanted Judas’s life to end on an anticlimactic note? Could be an interesting question for an interview; not so interesting for a book ending.

Jason Culp was a decent narrator, providing a satisfactory range of male voices. There were very few female roles, even fewer speaking roles in this book, so he didn’t have to stretch himself there.

What I Liked: Historical feel; not preachy; interesting back story for the ‘bad guy’; culture clash.

What I Disliked: Anticlimactic ending; very few females (this is a man’s tale).

What Others Think:

By the Book

The Suspense Zone

The Maiden’s Court

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