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The Relic Master

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  4,674 ratings  ·  800 reviews
From New York Times bestselling author Christopher Buckley, “one of the funniest writers in the English language” (Tom Wolfe), a compelling and hilarious adventure featuring a sixteenth-century relic hunter and his best friend, Albrecht Dürer, who conspire to forge the Shroud of Turin.

The year is 1517. Dismas is a relic hunter: one who procures “authentic” religious relics
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published December 8th 2015 by Simon Schuster
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Oct 28, 2015 rated it liked it
Oh, believe me - I wanted to LOVE this book. I pre-ordered and paid a hefty price for it. And maybe it was the wrong time of year, what with all the holiday brouhaha, there was scant time to get really wrapped up in a book. BUT, anytime it takes me fourteen days to finish a novel, there's something wrong. I can't exactly say what was off about this one, but it never really grabbed me. The concept is fine - Dismas travels around, obtaining religious relics for two competing patrons. I quite enjoy ...more
Nov 02, 2019 rated it liked it
“The workings of divine grace were beyond the comprehension of man.”

This novel is quite the departure for Christopher Buckley, and I am curious as to what many of his faithful readers think of “The Relic Master”. It did not bother me all that much, but I could see some of his readers disliking this novel a lot. It is not a political satire and it is not all that funny. It has moments of Buckley’s wit and occasional dry humor, but those traits take a back seat in this text.
The novel follows Disma
I picked this book up at a local discount store because the cover was cool and the author's name was one that I recognized as one that I liked. (I had previously read Boomsday, and loved the movie adaptation of Thank You for Smoking, which I own but haven't read yet.)

Anyway, so I had a few expectations from this, namely that it would be funny and irreverent, and it was... but it was also somewhat slow moving and just didn't grab me the way that I wanted it to. I've been "reading" it for 4 days,
Oct 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Christopher Buckley is done with political satires finding US politics (quite accurately) self satirizing, he's moved on or traveled back to history, specifically early 1500s. It might have been the best career move possible, because Relic Master is just awesome. Buckley's writing has always been clever and humorous, but the historical setting has added that extra dimension, at least for me and probably for any history buff. Present day affairs just don't hold the same appeal as events of bygone ...more
Clif Hostetler
Christopher Buckley is a master at writing novels that poke fun at absurdities in modern life. In this novel he has gone back to the sixteenth century and set this novel in a world where selling indulgences and trade in religious relics were major components of the European economy. It's a world so bazaar to twenty-first century sensibilities that almost no effort is required on Buckley's part to make the point that there's no limit to human stupidity.

Here's a link to a short NPR interview with
Laura Jean
Jun 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is by far the best I've read all year. Granted, this is at the end of one of my favorite eras of history and I was already familiar with the political and religious scene that served as the backdrop of this book, but was also woven deftly into the plot. The plot was intricate and enjoyable. The characters stole the show. I loved how their thoughts and actions were so accurate for that period of time. I gobbled it down in almost one sitting. It was also hilarious! It had me laughing out ...more
Don Gorman
Dec 20, 2015 rated it it was ok
(1 1/2). I am going to be kind and in the holiday spirit by rounding this up to 2 stars. I have read many of Christopher Buckley's other books and most have been very entertaining, a few really good. This one does not cut the mustard. The first 100 pages or so are bordering on dreadful, the tongue in cheek and stupidity level reaching an all time high (or low). After that the story becomes more palatable but way down deep it is shallow. Not a strong effort. ...more
Mal Warwick
Jan 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: trade-fiction
In an interview conducted by Deborah Solomon for the New York Times Magazine in 2008, Christopher Buckley engaged in this exchange:

[Your father] was a practicing Catholic. What are you? I am post-Catholic.

As opposed to a lapsed Catholic? I am probably more of a collapsed Catholic.

That’s about the size of it, to judge from Buckley’s latest satirical novel, The Relic Master. This diabolical tale is a send-up of the Catholic Church at what was probably the most unattractive period in its history. T
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

So first, a shameful confession, that I haven't read anything by the brilliant writer Christopher Buckley since his 1994 Thank You For Smoking; and that's almost a punishable crime, given the half-dozen smart and cynical books he's churned out since then, an author who is nominally a Republican (he's the s
Allen Adams
Dec 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing

Christopher Buckley is a veteran of the best-seller lists, known for quirky works of wit and intelligence that take on the nuts and bolts of American government – works such as “Thank You For Smoking,” “God is My Broker” and “Boomsday” that are sharply satirical and wildly funny.

But Buckley’s latest offering finds him traveling farther outside the Beltway than ever before, leaving the machinations of Washington D.C. far behind in terms of both space and ti
Paul Pessolano
Nov 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
“The Relic Master” by Christopher Buckley, published by Simon and Schuster.

Category – Fiction Literature/Comedy Publication Date – December 08, 2015.

Looking for something different to read? How about a story that dates back to the 1500’s? How about a story based in some facts and characters of that time? How about a fun read? If you answer “yes” to any of the above pick up “The Relic Master” on December 08, 2015.

Dismas is a Relic Collector. He purchases relics of saints of the Roman Catholic Chu
Jake Forbes
Dec 23, 2015 rated it liked it
Wonderful setting and a fun cast of historical and fictional characters. Early chapters were a joy while protagonist Dimas is in his element as a relic hunter. The absurdity of his trade combined with his personal code of ethics makes for great dry humor from Buckley. It's in the second half, where it turns into a caper story, that things fall apart a little. The increasingly frequent action scenes are dense with beats but not at all interesting to follow. The villainy of the final act is jarrin ...more
Quinn Cummings
Dec 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Imagine a Bing Crosby/Bob Hope road movie, only it's in the 16th century, one of them is a religious relic seller, the other is the painter Durer and they're trying to steal the Shroud of Turin. Christopher Buckley veers sharply from his usual world of DC insiders to write a terrific, lively, smart book about faith, commerce, friendship and cures for the pox. It takes a chapter or so to get everyone in place but once the safety bar comes down across your lap it's a great ride. ...more
Andrea: BookStoreFinds
Jan 28, 2016 rated it did not like it
Thank you to Simon and Schuster for sending me The Relic Master for review. Unfortunately I just couldn't get in the book at all and I found it draining to read. It was written well but It's just not my cup of tea! ...more
Josh Peek
Nov 12, 2016 rated it liked it
I love Buckley's books, I've tried to read most of them. So I was excited to find his latest would be historical fiction, which is quite a leap from what he normally writes. However, this just wasn't my favorite. It's harder to have witty banter within the constrains of the 15th century dialog. It also had the VERY cliched love interest. Buckley does have a penchant for writing about beautiful woman who fall in love with the protagonist, so I was willing to take it in a stride. The historical co ...more
Rob Atkinson
Jan 07, 2016 rated it liked it
Christopher Buckley is a gifted satirist, as anyone who has read "Thank You For Smoking" will know. His previous works have hilariously skewered contemporary politics, lobbying, and glib duplicity in America, particularly Washington, territory he obviously knows well. Assessing the current scene he decided -- correctly -- our current political scene is self-satirizing, having descended to a reality that already looks like it has come from a satirist's imagination. Hence his move to Europe circa ...more
Noah Goats
I’ve read a few of Buckley’s earlier novels, and I enjoyed them all. He’s a sharp satirist with a keen ability to slice up the high and mighty of modern America. I don’t know if The Relic Master is his first historical novel, but it’s the first historical novel of his that I have read, and he seemed out of his element. You can make fun of the collecting of religious relics, and it does seem to be a practice invented to be mocked, but it’s not exactly a fresh target, and Buckley brings nothing ne ...more
Apr 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Although this book was apparently well researched, it's not what I'd call a historical novel. There are several anachronisms (relic sellers' conventions?). However, don't let that deter you from reading it. Just like accepting impossible things like time travel and FTL Spaceship drive in a SF novel, you have to take the belief in relics seriously to get the most out of Buckley's book. In the beginning, Dismas the relic master is not a charlatan, but an honest dealer in Christian relics who is kn ...more
Keith Landry
Aug 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
I loved this book. The only book of Buckley's that I had read before was "Losing Mum and Pup" which I also enjoyed. The start to the book was a little slow for me as it seemed like a "one-trick pony". It dealt with the selling of indulgences by the Catholic Church in the 1500s. Most of the humor came from the relics Dismas would locate and sell to his customers. The story and the humor pickup when Dismas becomes involved in a plot with the great artist, A. Durer, to steal the Shroud of Turin. Ma ...more
Sara Leigh
Feb 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
My kind of historical fiction, The Relic Master is rooted in the 16th century, includes characters both real and imagined, and encompasses art, politics, and religion. Buckley's humorous take on all this is the icing on this particular cake. His portrayals of the motley crew that makes up the relic master's band of "pilgrims" are well drawn. Albrecht Dürer will never be the same to me. And the 16th century was not pretty. ...more
Jan 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
The point of historical fiction is to make you feel a little closer to another time, brushing up against some things you knew you wanted to encounter and glimpsing others you never knew you wanted. Buckley draws us into contact with a web of characters from the Protestant Reformation without ever being heavy-handed. A good plot and better than good dialogue keep this satisfying from start to finish.
Oct 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Humorous, satirical romp set in the Reformation period, 16th century Germany, involving a relic seller, a sleazy cardinal, the painter Albrecht Durer and the "Holy Shroud", crème de la crème of relics AND a scam. While the heroes are on their quest, the novel does devolve into silliness. 2.5/5. ...more
Dec 05, 2017 rated it liked it
If you like Action/Adventure historical fiction, this is for you. This book reads like a movie, but the movie version would be better.
I didn't find the relationships between most characters believable, and I don't think Albretch Durer often referred to members of the aristocracy as a "sweetie pie", but overall the book was fun to read.
Jan 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Historical fiction, heavy on the fiction but not without extensive research to assure the accuracy of any history represented. Hilarious at times, thoughtful, and bawdy, this book kept me entertained with each page.
Mark Taylor
Feb 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Christopher Buckley is most well-known for his satirical novels that poke fun at contemporary politics. His latest novel, The Relic Master, released in December of 2015, is set in the Holy Roman Empire of the 16th century. So, yes, it’s a bit of a change of pace for Buckley. But The Relic Master is a very successful change of pace, and the erudite wit that readers expect from Buckley is still to be found in generous quantities.

The relic master in question is named Dismas, and he works for two d
Jan 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you are looking for a book set during the Renaissance, full of history and laced with fun, humor, and satire, this book is for you. Written by Christopher Buckley, author of "Thank You for Smoking," and many others—mostly satirical, Buckley decided to write this book. From the book jacket, "During the 2016 election cycle, he [Buckley) concluded that American politics were sufficiently self-satirizing and decide the venture backward in time to a more innocent, les cynical era and place, like, ...more
Nov 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley, 2016
It says in blurb that this is a "compelling and hilarious adventure". I needed a hilarious book, so ... well I was tickled in couple of places and it certainly was appealing but I was not laughing, not once, not even a small giggle. BUT it was appealing - I said it already, didn't I - and all the real history that was entwined with the story made it really interesting. I probably do not have enough knowledge about that time period, about Catholicism and about Lutheranism to see the funny side of ...more
Mar 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
A thoroughly enjoyable novel with plenty of interesting historical context as well as political and religious intrigue. Martin Luther has recently outed the Catholic church for its greed and hypocrisy. Nobles and religious leaders are always on the lookout for ways to screw each other. In 1517 Dismas is THE renowned Relic Master of the Holy Roman Empire, a man with an impeccable reputation. He purchases only “authentic” religious artifacts for two clients, one good (Frederick), the other not so ...more
Mar 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Christopher Buckley is a truly funny writer; I discovered him just when a good dose of humour is precisely the needed thing. He earned his reputation as a novelist writing political satire. When politics reached the point that it was a satire of itself, he resorted to writing historical fiction: The Relic Master (2015) and The Judge Hunter (2018). His research into his periods is in depth. Both novels include real people used fictitiously. In Relic Master, one recognizes an upstart German August ...more
Betsy Ashton
Mar 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It was funny. It was snarky. It was full of irony. It took tropes from contemporary life and put them at the beginning of the Protestant Restoration.

Take for example the delivery of a relic to an aristocratic sponsor. A bone of a saint is celebrated with cheese and wine.

Christopher Buckley takes many elements from current events and turns them on their collective ears. He rails at religion, laughs at selling indulgences to reduce a sinner's time in purgatory, and pokes fun at
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Christopher Buckley graduated cum laude from Yale University in 1976. He shipped out in the Merchant Marine and at age 24 became managing editor of Esquire magazine. At age 29, he became chief speechwriter to the Vice President of the United States, George H.W. Bush. Since 1989 he has been founder and editor-in-chief of Forbes Life magazine.

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