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The Ark by Boyd Morrison
Publisher: Touchstone Books ISBN: 978-1-4391-8179-9
Reviewed by Ray Palen, New Mystery Reader
What if Noah’s Ark held within it a sinister secret that could mark another purging of all human life on earth? This question signifies the underlying premise of this terrific debut novel by Boyd Morrison.
An archaeologist named Dilara Kenner is searching for her missing father --- himself a famous archaeologist and hunter of rare historical artifacts. Her father, Hasad Arvadi, alleged to know the location of Noah’s Ark – one of the most sought after artifacts in history. When he goes missing, Dilara makes it her business to locate him. She meets with an old family friend named Sam Watson at LAX because he claims to have important information regarding her father. During their brief visit, a strange woman bumps into Watson and he becomes the unwitting victim of a poisonous injection. Just before his rapid death, Watson blurts out a series of names to Dilara: “Hayden, Project, Oasis, Genesis, Dawn…”. These names mean nothing to her, initially. The one piece of information he is able to give her clearly is the name of an individual she must contact who can help her find her father and solve the Noah’s Ark riddle --- former combat engineer, Tyler Locke.
Tyler Locke works for a company called Gordian that specializes in high-level engineering consulting. While working on an assignment at an oil rig off Newfoundland, Dilara is transported to the location to meet with Tyler and see if he can decipher the dying message given by Sam Watson. Watson’s death is not the only tragedy to occur in relation to the Noah’s Ark discovery. A famous actor and activist named Rex Hayden is traveling aboard a private jet that suddenly goes down without warning. Upon discovering the wrecked plane, authorities are not able to locate a single body --- just some random bones.
Locke is sent by Gordian to investigate this plane crash and Dilara accompanies him. He quickly realizes that the members of this flight were a victim of a deadly contagion virus that acted quickly to literally melt their bodies away to nothing but bone and ashes. What could this deadly virus be and who would be cunning enough to use such a virus for such a deadly purpose? Tyler Locke does not have to wrack his brain for too long before an individual from his past comes to mind --- Sebastian Ulric.
Ulric is a multi-billionaire and self-proclaimed genius who secretly supports an underground religious group with a fanatical agenda. Blaming all of humanity for ruining the environment on planet Earth, he and his group of brain-washed followers feel a scourge upon the earth that will wipe out all of humanity is the only way to cleanse the planet and save it from self-destruction. The Noah’s Ark story from the book of Genesis is reinterpreted by Ulric to comply with his group’s agenda. He alleges that ‘the flood’ that wiped out the earth and forced Noah to build an ark that protected animal life while continuing the human species was not actually an act of nature. The flood could have been referring to a plague that God set loose on the earth as part of his covenant with Noah whereby: “…every living soul that beareth flesh: and there shall no more be waters of a flood to destroy all flesh.”
Ulric’s companies have used their expertise in chemical warfare to create deadly new contagions named Arkon-2 and Arkon-3. If set loose on humanity, they would quickly wipe out all of mankind while not affecting animal life at all. Ulric has built his own ‘ark’, a subterranean vessel that can sustain thousands of people and protect them from the virus that wipes out everyone else. He also vows to eliminate anyone who poses a threat to his agenda. Sam Watson and Rex Hayden have already been silenced and now Tyler Locke and Dilara Kenner are directly in his crosshairs.
Tyler and Dilara uncover his plot and work against the clock to stop Ulric before the madman can execute his murderous plan. THE ARK is filled with non-stop thrills and page-turning action that never seems to let up. More importantly, the novel is well-researched and full of documentation and facts that make this nightmare frighteningly plausible. Unlike many other historical thrillers, THE ARK is not laden with boring facts or stifling detail --- it deftly keeps the balance of intelligence and thrills while never becoming preachy.
I applaud first-time author, Boyd Morrison, on his efforts to get this book released. He initially published it on his own through Amazon Kindle and his own website before being picked up by Touchstone. With support from fellow thriller writers James Rollins, Steve Berry and Douglas Preston it proves that Morrison is doing something right and THE ARK is a reading adventure not to be missed!
Canaan’s Gate by Kathryn R. Wall
Publisher: St. Martin's Press ISBN: 0312601840
Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader
Not a big fan of Wall’s earlier outings in this series, I was pleasantly surprised to find this read entirely satisfying with its revisiting of a familiar cast and place that seem revamped in more ways than one.
This time out, South Carolina islander PI Bay Tanner is hesitantly approached by a mousy young bank teller who feels something is not quite right with the transactions involving a wealthy older couple, suspecting that a fellow bank teller and the couple’s nurse might be defrauding the aging seniors. And while Bay is still getting over her father’s death and dealing with a new marriage, it doesn’t take her long to realize that this case is one she must solve regardless of the promises she made to not get involved in dangerous cases. And when the bodies start piling up, she’s only more determined to find the answers. But even as she looks for the truth, her personal life is determined to get in the way, especially her slight attraction to the handsome grandson of the couple who might not be all that he seems.
While I hate to say it, Wall, by killing off dear old dad, has managed to develop Bay herself into a more fully self-integrated and interesting character. While some might find her more than usual sense of independence a bit too much this time around without her father to rein her in, I personally liked the new Bay Tanner. This latest, made better by showcasing Bay and her agency in ways that prove authentic and appealing, just may prove to be her best yet.
The Exodus Quest by Will Adams
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing ISBN 978 0 446 56320 8
Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader
Daniel Knox, who appeared in Adams’s previous book The Alexander Caper, returns along with his companion Gaille Bonnard, in a fast-moving and dangerous adventure set in Egypt both past and present.
As a favour to her friend Fatima, Gaille agrees to escort American popular historian Charles Stafford around the site of the monotheist pharaoh Akhenaten’s city of Amarna. Stafford has a sensational new theory about which he wants to make a TV documentary. Nothing Fatima and Gaille have to say in the way of cautionary scholarship has any effect on his single-minded pursuit of the real identity of Akhenaten.
Unknown to Gaille, Knox and Stafford, there are several murky plots going on in the background. An American group is excavating a site near a salt lake in lower Egypt, and near Amarna itself, a number of young girls have been found dead in suspicious circumstances. Gaille and her party stumble onto the reason for the deaths, and are taken hostage and put in a perilous situation. Meanwhile, Knox has run afoul of a religious fanatic who will kill to prevent his telling about a discovery which could alter substantially much of what is known and believed about pre-Christian history in this part of the world.
Knox is considerably hampered by serious injuries sustained in a car crash which killed a colleague and led to the police seeking him on a murder charge. You’ll have to disengage your incredulity gene for a while, and accept that Knox can do almost superhuman physical feats despite his injuries, but if you could do it for Indiana Jones, you can do it for Daniel Knox.
If you know a little about Egyptian and early Israelite history, you’ll enjoy this book even more, but Adams manages to deliver enough factual information along with his hair-raising adventures to put you in the picture and allow all the various plot threads make sense.
If you had to categorize this book, you could call it a ‘speculative archaeological thriller’. It’s one of the better examples of the genre you’re likely to find this year.
Fortuna by Michael R Stevens
Publisher: Oceanview Publishing ISBN 978 1 933515 77 9
Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader
This is a complex story that exists in two worlds: the here-and-now, and in a virtual world, 15th century Florence. When Jason Lind signs up for the new role-playing game, he has no idea what he’s getting into. Jason’s brain-smart but perhaps a bit naïve when it comes to the social skills and graces. He’s majoring in computer science at Stanford and hasn’t much of a life outside his studies. This is the classic scenario for how people get drawn into alternate realities: they aren’t getting something they need out of the real world, so they seek it in cyberspace.
His father died in a car crash, and other than his friend Marco, Jason doesn’t have anyone he’s close to. Then he meets Paola, and she enters his world on both levels, real and virtual—but he is only aware of one level. Jason starts investigating the Fortuna world not just as a game, but also to find out how it works on a deeper level. He knows it is strictly forbidden to try to connect with Fortuna people in the real world, but he can’t resist.
Jason has a new identity in Fortuna: he’s a young priest, and he’s involved in a dark and complex alternate reality. He’s privy to dangerous information, and realises with a shock that the virtual world has leaked into the real world, and that real bad guys are after him with real weapons. What started as an intellectual exercise becomes a real-life adventure.
Readers who are into gaming and people who are sophisticated computer users will no doubt enjoy this book more than the rest of us, as will those who remember reading The Prince. Despite that, Stevens has managed to make the plot explicable to the average reader. He handles the traverses between the Fortuna world and the real world well; so you usually know where/when you are. The adventure, romance and danger are understandable in any world, and the discovery in the penultimate chapter will stun you. This is an enjoyable read regardless of your understanding of international finance, computer gaming, or Renaissance history.
The Book of Spies by Gayle Lynds
Reviewed by Danny Donegan, New Mystery Reader
Publisher: St. Martin's Press ISBN-10: 0312380895
Every year a group of men from all over the world gather together in a library for a meeting. They play history and literature games, dine on fine cuisine and wine, and discuss world events. All of this seems innocent enough until you realize this is no ordinary library, and these are no ordinary bookworms. The Library they gather in is the fabled “Library of Gold”, Ivan the Terrible’s collection containing some of the worlds most ancient and rare texts that are thought to be lost to time. These men are actually some of the worlds most powerful and wealthy who will stop at nothing to protect their library and economic interest. When one of the texts goes missing, “The Book of Spies”, the sinister nature of these men is revealed.
When Jonathan Ryder, a prominent businessmen and former CIA agent is in the middle of telling his former CIA colleague and friend Tuck Andersen about a possible connection between the library and international terrorism, he is shot dead. Andersen now needs put the pieces of this puzzle together, but he can’t do it alone.
Andersen recruits Eva Blake, a rare books curator with a troubled past. Blake is serving time for manslaughter for drinking and driving in mysterious car accident in which her husband was killed. She agrees to assist Andersen in return for an early release, but soon realizes she may be a part of this puzzle. Andersen also unwillingly recruits Jonathan’s son, Judd Ryder. Judd is a former Army Intelligence officer who wants find out who murdered his father and why. Ryder and Blake are determined to find the truth about the Library of Gold, each having their own agenda.
Gayle Lynds’ “The Book of Spies” has twists and turns that will leave the reader begging for more. It is a superb read that falls in the genres of political thriller, mystery, and espionage, (sorry Sci-fi and Romance readers, next aisle). It pleasantly turns the reader into a detective, trying to unravel the mystery for themselves. The readers will find fascinating historical references that they may want to investigate on their own. The main characters of the story, Eva Blake and Judd Ryder, are likeable characters with a solid foundation. People will often say books are page turners; this book is the definition of one. The reader is easily placed in Rome, Afghanistan, and beyond. I had a hard time putting it down, and have found myself thinking about them even still. My only possible complaint of the book could be the annoying karate references, but in Lynds' defense that’s getting really picky. I’ve heard of some people comparing this book to the Da Vinci Code, but I assure you, it is completely original, and in my opinion, a better read.
The Other Side of the Door by Nicci French
Publisher: Minotaur Books ISBN-10: 0312375409
Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader
This husband and wife team has managed to avoid the sometime wearisome trap of the serial mystery with their amazingly unique stand-alones that while being unique, by no means leave readers disappointed with unfamiliar characters and settings each time out.
This latest, like most before it, is a dark and disturbing read. Alternating between before and after the big moment, these authors take readers through the winding road of events that led up the crime and what happened afterwards while, amazingly, never give away what really transpired until the very end.
It all begins when 30-something music teacher Bonnie Graham is asked by an old friend to get a band together for her wedding, with the bride-to-be having an overly positive picture of a band from college that Bonnie was once a part of. And Bonnie, being a teacher with the summer off and only the restoration of her dingy London flat to keep her occupied, figures - why not? Bringing together some old friends and some new acquaintances to play in the band, however, won't be the nostalgic ride she thought, but instead a tempestuous tune of violence and obsessive love when a stranger joins the band. And what happens during this hot and steamy London summer will leave everyone involved changed in ways that may not be for the best.
Those who have read this masterful couple's previous works will perhaps be better prepared than most for the sense of doom that surrounds these characters and the mind-jolting surprises that unfold. But, even still, no matter how much one is prepared, one can't escape the alarming intensity arising from the bombshells that are slowly revealed and the ominous shadows that pervade every page. Reminiscent of one of those nightmares in which movement is slowed down to a tick-tock pace of heavy gloom and foreboding, this one feels like falling off a cliff while knowing all the way down that the end is going to hurt a lot more than anticipated. And it does it brilliantly. Reading this in more than one day will most likely prove impossible for most readers as once you've started, you’ll fine it impossible to stop.