Mystery Thriller

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Read: Sign of the Cross

Hinting once or twice at things still to come to increase the suspense of one’s narrative can be a good move. The reader becomes engrossed in the story and feels slightly ahead of the protagonists. Continuously hinting at things still to come becomes very fast an annoying quirk. Chris Kuzneski has this quirk and Sign of the Cross suffers to some extend under it.

Otherwise it’s a good religious themed thriller. The heroes are quite likable and not too serious. Indeed, I felt a bit reminded of Clive Cussler’s work. The protagonists still need some depth – though it is only the second novel in a series that I suspect to get rather voluminous…

Read: The Sanctuary

Dual (or multiple) interwoven time lines seem pretty popular in current successful novels. The Sanctuary, for instance, connects one story plot playing in the early 1700 with one in the early 2000. Raymond Khoury mixes quite a bit of action – shoot outs, kidnappings, hot pursuits – a string of coincidences with an appealing scientific motive. Though the general level of violence and the number of shady characters is rather high the novel also brings up an interesting mix of moral attitudes and scientific ethics.

How far should you go, how far can you go to achieve your goal? Here, questionable scientific experiments, torture, and murder are obviously accepted means to reach the end. On top of that, even the goal is “ethically challenged.” Should one strive to find the cure for death, to prolong one’s life beyond the normal expectations? And, should you share that knowledge?

For this novel does not tell the “usual” quest for a religious artifact or a secret that could shatter the foundations of the Church, it does tell the quest for a vaccine to cure the disease of aging. And prolongevity – doubling, tripling the healthy human life expectancy – raises some serious social and moral questions.

These questions are far more interesting than the novel itself that only cursorily is concerned with them.

Still, The Sanctuary is quite entertaining – even though [url=http://en. wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_Khoury]Khoury’s[/url] first novel The Last Templar was a bit more enjoyable and enthralling.

Read: The Atlantis Code

Not exactly as advertised – The Atlantis Code does not take anyone to a new level of mystery, wonder, adventure nor excitement – it is still quite entertaining. In fact, I might even buy the next installment of the protagonist’s escapades. As far as I understand Brokaw’s next novel announced for this year will feature the same protagonist.

Brokaw’s characters need a little more depth, especially the villains and supporting characters. His protagonist seems a little too awkward in coping with his female companions given his background. Though, I liked the existence of a strong counter-balancing female character. The different characters’ motivation is clear, there is no wondering where all the money for all the travelling and hotels is coming from. These are some of the novel’s positive features that cannot always be taken for granted.

The conclusion of The Atlantis Code is a bit anti-climatic. All the interesting things get destroyed or are spirited away and stashed in some secret place by the Church. The Garden of Eden - Atlantis - Tower of Babel link was, however, rather original. To my taste, Brokaw could have elaborated this even in more detail. In sum, the novel is a rather respectable debut feature.

Read: The Book of Secrets

In contrast to the other mystery novel I read recently, most of Tom Harper’s The Book of Secrets does feel ‘right’. It is well paced. The motivation for the protagonists actions is clear and credible. The interleaving of the two time lines slowly builds a momentum that lead to the novel being a real page turner. Since to story focuses on one person in each time line these protagonists are rather well portrayed, they just have the right amount of depth; the minor characters are, however, a little under-developed.

Since the protagonist of the present time line is not an “expert” on the central elements of the past time line — in fact, he is rather ignorant about almost everything except his profession, hobbies ans social network — there are, fortunately, only a few pseudo-scientific-accurate references and explanations about what is / was going on. A circumstance that lends the story more credibility — paradoxically.

Another noteworthy difference to many other history-mystery novels that contain references to religion and the catholic church: there is no holy grail, no artifact designed to bring down the church.

In a nutshell, I enjoyed this novel. It is certainly one of the better fiction books published in 2009.

Read: The Sword of the Templars

I obviously like the occasional mystery thriller. The Sword of the Templars, however, almost made me the put it aside. There are numerous historical inaccuracies (some are already noted here) that I do not even want to point out. On top of that, the author Paul Christopher tries to be polyglot and fails miserably. Grammar and orthography are so often wrong that it distracts from the actual story.

The story itself is a little bit too fast, there are too many characters and too many places – actually, the authors seems to know this as he even lets one of his protagonists refer to Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego. Additionally, the story is mainly driven by the protagonists’ actions that are not really motivated by the character traits the authors wanted to assign to them. All in all, the book reads more like an elaborate draft in lieu of a well polished novel.

The only thing I really liked about this book is the clever interpretation of the Templar’s treasure that is to be found in the end.

Read: The Magicians

Every once in a while I get on a little book buying spree. Either because I am in London at Waterstones and had enough time to leaf through a number of books or because I just saw something in a store and decided to buy it later on the net. In that case I start to work through a list that may be a littler bit longer. Lev Grossman’s The Magicians was on my most recent book wish list… I only later found out that it is also on the Best Books of 2009 list of several newspapers.

Does it belong on such a list? Yeah, maybe.

The book is divided in several “sub-books” that are considerably different in content and atmosphere, reflecting the different stages of the protagonist’s personal pursuit of happiness. While the first part is a little bit like Harry Potter for grown-ups – the slightly depressed and manic “hero” gets to a magic college – the second part feels like a LARP gone bad.

I like Grossman’s nerdy, non-positive, dirty, bleak, and yet romantic picture of the world. His protagonists are no heroes, they are not infallible. Their quest is not motivated by a noble moral and they are taken for a ride. And even the happy end has a sad undertone.

The Magicians is thus at least on my personal Good Books of 2009 list.

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