Sir Laurence Gardner does a commendable job in researching Christianity's most controversial secret. Building on his earlier "Bloodline of the Holy Grail", this book focuses on Mary Magdalene's pivotal role in bringing the Davidic bloodline to Europe.
Gardner bolsters the case for Jesus having been married by drawing upon the historical background of the Essene community, and using it to "decode" the Gospel accounts of the birth and life of Jesus. The result is a dramatically new picture of Jesus, integrated into a realistic historical context. Jesus emerges as a leader aware of his prophetic expectations, but radical in his determination to treat Mary Magdalene and other women as equals. The suggestion is made that this issue may have helped fuel the eventual split between Gnostic Christianity and the misogynic version which ultimately prevailed in Rome.
As one would expect, there are numerous footnotes, but there are annoying lapses where the author states a ground-breaking premise without any reference to back it up. The reader is left wondering if should be taken as pure speculation, or whether Sir Laurence is trying to "slip one past us" by stating his conclusion as an "obvious" fact. Other minor lapses include the assertion that the Catholic church continued to edit the Bible until a few hundred years ago (modern English translations are based on the oldest available manuscripts).
Another weak spot comes when he tries to force some rather curious interpretations on scripture, such as "the restitution of all things" in Acts 3:21 being taken to signify the end of a 3-year period of celibacy following the birth of Jesus' daughter. This may constitute an important new understanding of scripture, but it needs to be developed further.
Overall, Sir Laurence has done a creditable job in researching and presenting the material. He exploits his experience in art restoration to offer some background and commentary on the paintings highlighted in Dan Brown's "Da Vinci Code".
Traditionalist Christians may even find solace in the historical existence of Jesus being presented in a manner which weaves itself into the solid fabric of European history.