Rating: 4* of fiveThe Book Description: Brimming with wit and humor, Lazarus Is Dead transcends genres as it recounts the story of a great friendship lost and re-found.In the gospels Jesus is described as having only one friend, and when this friend dies, Jesus does something that he does nowhere else in the Bible. He weeps. Novelist Richard Beard begins here. Mixing Biblical sources, historical detail, fascinating references to music, art, and writers as diverse as Kahlil Gibran and Norman Mailer, and abundant reserves of creative invention, Beard gives us his astonishing and amusing take on the greatest story ever told about second chances.As children, Lazarus and Jesus were thick as thieves. But following a mysterious event, their friendship dwindled in early adulthood. One man struck out and became a flamboyant and successful businessman, the other stayed behind to learn a trade, and ultimately to find his calling in an unprecedented mix of spirituality and revolutionary zeal. Lazarus Is Dead is set during the final period in each man’s life—or, to be more precise, each man’s first life. Both know the end is near and, though they’re loath to admit it, they long for reconciliation. For that to happen they will need to find reasons to believe in each other before time runs out.My Review: *Europa Editions sent me an ARC for review.*Lazarus has always bothered me. In the times of my life when learning about the holey babble was a survival mechanism, I was always verschmeckeled by the point of bringing the dead guy back and then just dropping the storyline like the actor got a better part somewhere else. Okay! Cool! Back among the living, and...and...?Looks like Beard had much the same response. He did something about it. (Well, I did too, but kicking christianity to the curb wasn't Beard's response.) He imagined the story again, from the top, and made sense of it without deviating from the biblical account. He added to the biblical account, but didn't change what was there.And you know what? This is a good damn book, because it's based on a damn good story. Is it gut-bustingly, raucous-guffawingly funny? No...it's sly and witty and erudite, like a joke Voltaire would tell, not one Adam Sandler would tell. The pleasure of reading the book is in savoring, not in slurping it up.Beard's not one to waste time on explanation, though, so if you're interested in getting the maximum amount of smirk per page, read this with Wikipedia open and look up things you don't know about. I promise you Beard didn't do that, but you're reading the book where he had to think it up and write it. His is a heavier burden. You get to skate on the surface.But what a surface. Lazarus...the dead man walking...the holy zombie, my father called him to the screeching fury of my mother. Is there a better story in the bible? Well, apart from the rape and incest bits. They're all over the place, just open 'er up and start skimming. He rose from the dead! How cool is that! Beard's imagining of it is pretty cool, and very human. How many writers would think to have the resurrected guy take a bath, and smell his breath to be sure it's not stinky? Human details like this make the story one to savor.And as a teaser, pay attention to how the chapters are numbered. There's a game in there. These are sixteen well-spent dollars for you who will buy the book.