Armed with little more than ambition, ego and a pair of visas obtained by forging the signature of a Saudi prince, Colorado millionaire Larry Williams and former California SWAT team member Bob Cornuke set out in 1988 on a true-life Indiana Jones-style expedition: to find the gold that the fleeing Israelites left at Mount Sinai during the biblical Exodus. Guided by their reading of holy scripture (and a tip from an unsuccessful fortune hunter), the Americans believe the real Mount Sinai is in Saudi Arabia, not Egypt. Unfortunately for Cornuke and Williams, the Saudis are building a military installation at the mountain, which is now surrounded by barbed wire and armed Bedouins. But heck, every good yarn needs a twist or two, and Vanity Fair contributing editor Howard Blum's thriller has plenty, with a cast that includes the CIA, the Mossad, sexy women spies, a Saudi king who's hooked on Cheez Doodles and Nintendo, and more Bible quotes than you're likely to find outside of Sunday school.
Even if you dismiss the gold-digging scheme as preposterous, Blum's combination of factual detail and suspenseful narrative turns Bob and Larry's not always excellent adventure into a very readable tale. (Simon & Schuster, $25)