▸ mystery thriller

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


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.

Read: The Lost Symbol

First things first. It’s a page turner.

Dan Brown’s sequel to Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code was a little bit over-hyped (a reason for not reading it) and it follows the law of sequels, it is not as “good” as its forerunners (this can be expected, ergo another reason for not reading it). Yet, I am a sucker for mystery novels, so I read it.

In hindsight the plot is rather transparent and seems quite engineered. A few phrases turn up again and again and the flashbacks are not really helping in fleshing out the characters and explaining their motivation. In some parts of the novel the plot and backdrop drift off to the supernatural. Though I like this kind of, let’s say, fantasy genre in general I am not so fond of it when reading a mystery novel.

Brown is a skilled writer. This saves the novel. You just cannot put the book down. Unfortunately, in the meantime he also got maybe a little too professional…

Al in all, my feelings about The Lost Symbol are mixed. The novel is tantalizing and, yet, flawed. I’ll guess the movie – due in 2012 – will share these features.

Read: Thunderhead

It was time for another science thriller by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child: Thunderhead is set in the Pendergast-universe, though the FBI agent himself does not appear in this novel. The story takes places some time before Cabinet of Curiosities, that is even before the rather ambivalent Diogenes trilogy 1 2 3 that was my reason to start reading Preston and Child novels. The only known character (given the timeline of novels) is the journalist Smithback who accompanies an archaeological dig in a remote corner of Utah’s canyon country. The leader of the expedition Nora Kelly will re-appear in later novels, too, one additional character that will be recycled throughout the series.

Thunderhead is less mysterious and less mystic than most other Pendergast novels. The solution to the single seemingly mystic puzzle is almost mundane. Yet, or maybe for this reason, the novel is a very entertaining and absorbing reading.

Gelesen: Sacred Bones

Ich weiß nicht wirklich, warum ich als immer wieder zu Büchern wie Sacred Bones von Michael Byrnes greife. Nicht selten ärger ich mich dann doch über den Inhalt. Mystic Thriller in populären Literatur, zumindest die mir bisher bekannten, können grob in zwei Richtungen gehen. Die einen entwickeln sich eher in Richtung Esoterik ohne dabei eine Religion spezifisch anzugreifen oder zu verherrlichen, die anderen variieren christliche Motive. Letztere lassen sich dann wiederum in in pro und kontra zum herrschenden Dogma der christlichen Religion einteilen. Sacred Bones gehört in die erste dieser beiden letzten Kategorien. Auch wenn dies zu Beginn des Buches nicht so deutlich ist, wird dies im Laufe des Buches umso deutlicher. Und genau damit hat mich der Autor dann verloren. Sacred Bones ist ein handwerklich gut geschriebener Thriller, dem eine gewisse Realitätsnähe und damit Glaubwürdigkeit nicht abgesprochen werden kann. Andererseits übertreibt es der Autor mit seinem Personen-/Gotteskult und verdirbt damit eine ansonsten gute Geschichte und verliert wieder die Nähe zur Realität.

Ein gläubiger Christ würde sich sicher nicht so sehr an diesem Punkten stören. Vielleicht sollte man für den Rest der Menschen entsprechende Warnhinweise einführen: Statt “explicit lyrics” ein “dogmatic christian content”.