They say that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but what if the book’s author puts himself up for judgement with a tagline that has created controversy on its own?

That is the case with The Black Madonna, a compelling thriller by UK journalist and author Peter Millar. The bold phrase 'A book to make Dan Brown turn green with envy' may give readers the impression that author Peter Millar is just another writer simply trying to create controversy with his rather overblown claims. Surprisingly, The Black Madonna turns out to be the complete opposite; it's a genuinely enjoyable read with a neatly constructed plot full of cultural and historical detail.

Nazareem is a young Muslim Palestinian archaeologist who discovers what might be the first image of the Virgin Mary drawn in her real time, displaying the Virgin Mary with black skin. Nazareem thinks that she is onto something that might turn the world upside down, but before her theory can be proven; the painting is stolen from the small Gaza museum.

From that moment on, Nazareem finds herself threatened by people who will not stop at killing someone to get what they want. Not sure of why she’s being followed, she flees to London seeking help form Marcus, an ex-lover who is also an archaeologist. Together, they realise that this chase has more to it than the stolen painting.

As the events begin to gradually unfold, The Black Madonna becomes one of the hardest books to put down. The build-up to the focal point of the plot could have evolved a little faster, but then again; it's a deep, well-constructed story with vivid descriptions that don't bore the reader.

It's obvious that Millar has conducted a significant amount of research for the book to turn into a profound debate about the essence of Islam and Christianity. He openly discusses the points of difference between the religions without tiptoeing around these sensitive subjects. Luckily for Millar, he doesn’t tackle the story through his personal bias, instead; he allows the debate to be carried by characters from both religions.

Maybe it was the element of combining mystery with religious history that suggests a parallel between The Black Madonna and Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code.However, some will find that the comparison isn’t fair; through tackling scientific angles of history that could redefine religion, Brown created a lot of religious condemnation.

Millar probably won’t face the same allegations, as he’s been fair in portraying both sides of the story. Perhaps this may make Dan Brown jealous after all.