True raiders The untold story of the 1909 expedition to find the legendary Ark of the Covenant

Brad Ricca

Book - 2021

"True Raiders is The Lost City of Z meets The Da Vinci Code, from critically acclaimed author Brad Ricca. This book tells the untold true story of Monty Parker, a British rogue nobleman who, after being dared to do so by Ava Astor, the so-called "most beautiful woman in the world," headed a secret 1909 expedition to find the fabled Ark of the Covenant. This amazing tale not only inspired the blockbuster film Raiders of the Lost Ark but stands on its own as an incredible story of adventure and mystery, though it has been almost completely forgotten today. In 1908, Monty is approached by a strange Finnish scholar named Valter Juvelius who claims to have discovered a secret code in the Bible that reveals the location of the Ark.... Monty assembles a ragtag group of blueblood adventurers, a renowned psychic, and a Franciscan father, to engage in a secret excavation just outside the city walls of Jerusalem. Using recently uncovered records from the original expedition and several newly translated sources, True Raider is the first retelling of this group's adventures- in the space between fact and faith, science and romance"--

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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 956.9442/Ricca Checked In
New York : St. Martin's Press [2021]
Main Author
Brad Ricca (author)
First edition
Physical Description
xii, 350 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • Persons in Their Order of Appearance
  • The Key
  • Part 1. The Cipher
  • Part 2. Underground
  • Part 3. The King in Copper
  • Part 4. Raiders
  • Part 5. A Black Star
  • Epilogue
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Ricca follows up Olive the Lionheart with another cinematic history of a European aristocrat's adventures in distant lands. In 1909, Montague "Monty" Parker, an English nobleman and veteran of the Second Boer War, led an expedition to Palestine in search of the Ark of the Covenant. He was hired by businessmen who believed that a Finnish scholar had discovered a cipher in the Old Testament that, when decoded, provided a map to where the Ark was hidden in a network of subterranean tunnels near Jerusalem. Following the scholar's map and the findings of an earlier British explorer, Charles Warren, Parker and his team of amateur archaeologists excavated Hezekiah's Tunnel, believed to have been built in the 8th century BCE to provide Jerusalem with water during a siege by the king of Assyria. Ricca details the history of biblical sites including Gihon Spring, also known as the Virgin's Fountain, where Mary was believed to have washed Jesus's swaddling clothes, as well as a strike by local laborers, the race to beat a rival expedition funded by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, and allegations that Parker stole antiquities from the Mosque of Omar. Parker's rumored romance with Ava Astor, the estranged wife of John Jacob Astor, provides a touch of glamour. Archaeology buffs will be enthralled. Agent: Scott Mendel, Mendel Media Group. (Sept.)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

The fascinating story of a bizarre expedition to find one of the most famous of all historical artifacts. Ricca focuses primarily on Monty Parker (1878-1962), a veteran of the Second Boer War and the younger son of a British earl. In 1908, he was approached by a syndicate founded to explore the claims of Valter Juvelius, a Finnish researcher who claimed to have found a cipher in the Bible revealing the location of the Ark of the Covenant. Parker joined the effort partly in hopes of impressing Ava Astor, a wealthy divorcée who'd caught his eye, but mainly because of the enormous value the Ark was expected to bring its discovers. By the fall of 1908, Parker, Juvelius, and other members of the expedition were in Jerusalem, planning to explore a system of tunnels under the city. Ricca chronicles the 1867 exploration of the tunnels by Sir Charles Warren, a British officer with a strong interest in archaeology, giving readers some context and a clear sense of the difficulties of the project. But Parker's expedition, aided by squads of local laborers and financed by rich donors in Britain and America, was on a much grander scale. As they began to open up the maze of tunnels, they were joined by Father Vincent, a local priest who helped them uncover a few artifacts of archaeological significance. Meanwhile, Parker pushed ahead, doing his best to make sense of Juvelius' clues while keeping his purpose hidden from everyone outside the syndicate. In the end, the project fell apart, achieving little beyond enraging the local Muslim population after an attempt to dig inside the Mosque of Omar. Ricca tells the story in novelistic style, switching viewpoints and inventing conversations, which somewhat compensates for the lack of any real denouement to the adventure. An entertaining if slight telling of what was ultimately a minor episode in the history of archaeology. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.