Book Review: The Eye of Ra by Michael Asher

Summary (from inside book sleeve)

Unknown to the world at large, the opening of Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1923 revealed a secret of crucial importance – a secret that over the next years would bring about the mysterious deaths of more than twenty people.

But the story didn’t end there.  Omar James Ross, a maverick Egyptologist, is drawn back to Cairo by the disappearance of his friends and colleague, Julian Cranwell.  His body is found by the Great Pyramids, and Ross becomes embroiled in a conspiracy that leads directly back to Tutankhamen’s tomb and is linked in some way to the legendary lost oasis of Zerzura.

Cranwell’s body vanishes from the morgue, and every contact, every informant dies or disappears.  Ross, threatened, harassed, almost friendless, takes refuge among his mother’s people, the Bedouin nomads of the Western Desert.  It is in the company of an intrepid band of these tribesmen that Ross solves the mystery of the Eye of Ra, and comes face to face with the most earth-shattering discovery.

Rich in Egyptian mythology and history, Bedouin folklore, sinister secret organisations and deep conspiracies spanning millennia, The Eye of Ra is a highly atmospheric thriller combining fascinating characters and chilling mysteries.

Favourite Quote

‘What’s it like?’

‘Well, it’s not two palms and a pond – that’s how most people think of an oasis.  It’s fifty miles long with scores of villages, millions of palms, lakes, thousands of feddans of farmland, scrubland and acacia forest.  It’s like a big green island in a sea of nothingness.”

Review

I enjoyed this book a lot.  The story was fascinating and cleverly written, and the characters engaging.  Full of twists and turns, I didn’t know what was going to happen next most of the time, though there were some instances where they were anticipated.  That didn’t detract from my enjoyment of it, however.

My favourite character was Doc Barrington, though Omar James Ross was interesting; being part English and part Hawazim, he had spent most of his life up until that point feeling like he didn’t fit in anywhere.  I found the mythology and history engrossing, and the descriptions of the Bedouin, their folklore and way of life, thoroughly fascinating.

The book is full of rich descriptions of places, and the author’s understanding and knowledge of the desert and the people who live there shines through.  I liked the front cover too – anything with hieroglyphs on it immediately catches my attention.

I wouldn’t describe it as a page turner, more a slow burner, even though there is a lot of action in it, but it held my attention throughout without fail (hence the four stars rather than five).  I thought I wouldn’t get on with the sci-fi aspects of the plot, but the author did a great job of telling the story so that it didn’t bother me so much; yes, it was a little far-fetched, but fun nonetheless.

The Eye of Ra is full of secrets and mysteries, mythology and action, and has a rather unique  answer to the curse of the pharaohs.  If you enjoy historical fiction and sci-fi, and possess an interest in Ancient Egypt, I think you will enjoy this book.

Rating

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Book Review: Inquisition by Alfredo Colitto

Summary:

Bologna, 1311. Mondino de Liuzzi, a well-known physician is staying late at the university where he teaches.  This is nothing unusual for he often stays late in order to secretly study corpses in an effort to understand as much as he can about the human body.  When a surprise knock on the door disturbs him, he answers it to find one of his students holding the body of a murdered friend.

The victim: a Templar knight.  But what is striking is that there is something very unnatural about the dead body: his heart has been turned to iron.

Mondino’s curiosity is piqued.  How could a human heart be transformed into a solid block of iron?  Is it alchemy?  In order to find out, he is going to have to help a wanted man catch the murderer and in so doing, go up against a dangerous and ambitious Inquisitor…

Favourite Quote:

It was clear to his scientific mind that the transformation of Angelo da Piczano’s heart was not the result of the shadowy spell of a witch, but the much more concrete art of alchemy.

Review:

A few times I’ve had trouble reading books that have been translated into English; they can lack fluidity, creating jarring sentences that inhibit the pace of the story.  Inquisition was translated by Sophie Henderson, and in my opinion, she has done a fantastic job.  It was so well translated that, if it hadn’t been for the brief mention of it at the start of the book, I would never have guessed.

Fourteenth century Italy was vividly brought to life as I worked my way through the story.  Mondino de Liuzzi is an engaging character; he has an interesting job as a physician teaching at a university at a time when science and religion are at loggerheads.  He is a complex character that finds himself in a very difficult, and very dangerous, position.  And as he tries to unravel the mystery of the iron heart, he has much more to contend with.  The rest of the cast are just as well thought out and believable as Mondino, and like the scientist, have their own secrets and agendas, making this a fast-paced, gripping read.

Filled with action and drama, secrets and revenge, Inquisition is a suspenseful read which held my attention from the very first page.  A number of times I wondered how the characters were going to get out of the situations they found themselves in, and there were more than a handful of twists and turns to keep me guessing.  I also thought the ending was clever.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.  I recommend it to those interested in any of the following: the history of fourteenth century Europe, the early days of modern science, the Knights Templar and the Inquisition.

Rating:

Book Review: The Camelot Code by Sam Christer

the-camelot-code-front-coverWhen an antiques dealer turns up murdered in his shop in Maryland, the local police calls in some expert help in the form of Mitzi Fallon, who has just started her new job with the FBI’s Historical, Religious and Unsolved Crimes Unit, based in San Francisco.  The antiques dealer had had a valuable Celtic cross stolen from him, and so begins a journey that will take Fallon on a journey that is more dangerous than she could have ever guessed and leading her to a secret she will never believe…

I was unsure of picking up this thriller when I first saw it.  I have a keen interest in Arthurian myths and I couldn’t help but wonder if this story would read as silly.  However, for the most part, I was wrong.  The actual story line was very good and the characters engaging, although, naturally with a story like this you have to suspend disbelief.  After all, contemporary thrillers are not fantasy and it is hard to make the fantastical believable in the every day world.

But, that being said, I was very quickly drawn into the story of Mitzi Fallon.  She was an interesting if flawed character which made it easy to relate to her and want her to succeed.  She was strong, independent, but with a well-defined mothering instinct.  Irish was also an interesting character as was Sir Owain Gwyn but there were a handful of minor characters that I found a little annoying.

The story itself is well paced, full of action and suspense, and did a good job of blending the mythical and the modern.  The author very cleverly modernised names for the story, which showed you who they were based on without labouring the point, which would have added in too much backstory and slowed the pace.  I would certainly read more from this author in the future.

Have you read this book?  What did you think to it?

Book Review: The Map by T.S. Learner

the-map-front-coverA coded map, which intimates that there are secret locations across Europe where it is claimed the answers to the great mysteries can be revealed, has been discovered.  August Winthrop is following the clues, but he is not alone.  There are others who want the answers he seeks and are willing to go to great lengths to get them.

As he is pursued across Europe by spies, secret agents and those that dabble in black magic, he will have to use all the skills and contacts he picked up when he worked as an SOE operative during the war.  But will it be enough or will a great power that has remained hidden for centuries fall into the wrong hands…

This is going to be quite a mixed review.

I have to admit, I struggled with this book, even though I usually enjoy these conspiracy-thriller-adventure type stories.  The reason for this is that I found it difficult to connect with any of the characters, which made it hard for me to care about what happened to them.

On the upside, the description of people and places found along the journey made it easy to visualise what was going on.  That, coupled with the period setting of the 1950’s and the post WWII world, especially Europe, ensured that no matter how much I struggled with the characters, I did keep reading on until the very end.

My favourite parts of the story line involved the mystical and magical (as always), but there are a great many threads to keep track of through this very long book (my copy ran to nearly 600 pages).  I wonder if there had been fewer of these story threads whether I would have found the book as a whole easier to digest…

This is the first book I have read by the author, but I would definitely give another one of their books ago.

Book Review: Sanctus by Simon Toyne

sanctus-front-coverSanctus is the first book in the Sancti Trilogy by Simon Toyne.

The book opens with a robed man climbing to the top of a Turkish mountain said to be the oldest inhabited place on earth.  It is called the citadel, and is the seat of ancient and secretive religion.  Then, with the whole world watching, he throws himself to his death.

This news story captures the attention of the world, something the citadel would have done anything to avoid.  For hidden within the man’s last desperate act is a message.  Should anyone break it, a long kept secret that the robed brotherhood have gone to great lengths to conceal except to the most highly initiated of their order, will come out, and with it, the unravelling of a millennia-old prophecy…

At first I was a little unsure of this book, but in a matter of pages I found myself completely absorbed into the story.  The story was well-written, the pace fast and the characters engaging.  All this combined and you have a story that manages to capture the imagination.

If you like conspiracy thrillers combined with a dose of ancient historical intrigue, you could do much worse than giving this a read.  I found the story gripping and struggled to put it down.  The author has a gift for storytelling.  He manages to add background detail to the narrative without bogging it down and slowing the pace – which is a must in these types of books.   And the ending was a complete surprise!

I’ve added the second book in the Sancti Trilogy, The Key, to my ‘to be bought’ list.  I can’t wait to read where the story leads from here…

Book Review: Excavation by James Rollins

excavation by james rollins front coverWhen archaeologist Professor Henry Conklin leads a team of students on a dig in the heart of the South American jungle, he believes he has found the evidence he needs to substantiate a theory he has spent many years working on.  But what they have uncovered is far beyond anything they could have expected.

However, what they have stumbled across by chance, others have been searching for for centuries and they will stop at nothing until they get it.  Archaeology has never been more amazing…or dangerous.

As the story takes us on an exploration of a subterranean Incan ruin, we quickly discover that all is not as it seems, both above and below ground.  Whatever they have discovered down there in the dark, there are those who have and will kill to possess it.  What can be so valuable?  More importantly, what lurks in the shadows?

If you like your thrillers and mysteries packed with action and with a hint of the extraordinary, this book might be for you.

I found that the first few chapters of the book were a little slow to get going as the foundations were laid for the rest of the story.  However, the pace quickly picked up after that, and barely relented as twists and turns (many of which were unexpected) were revealed one after the other.

The characters were diverse and engaging, especially the students.  The descriptions of the places and people encountered were detailed and vivid, and the storyline certainly captured the imagination.

This is the second time I have read this book (the first was a while ago and I had forgotten the plot), and I would read it again.  A recommended read.

Book Review: Dark Angels by Grace Monroe

Dark Angels is the first novel by Grace Monroe to feature Brodie McClennan.

Brodie McClennan, a lawyer on the up-and-up, is appointed to defend Kailash Coutts, a well-known prostitute accused of the murder of one of Edinburgh’s most celebrated lawyers, Alistair MacGregor.  It’s not a case that Brodie wants to take on, put she is put under pressure to do so from the bosses in her law firm.

The outcome looks clear, and as Brodie attempts to build a defence case, all she seems to find are riddles and questions she can’t answer.  Even her client doesn’t seem to be co-operating.

However, this case is much more than it seems.  Somehow this murder ties in to a number of unsolved cold cases and the further Brodie delves to uncover the truth, the more dangerous things get, and not just for her.  Powerful people are involved and are doing their best to cover up the past and will stop at nothing to achieve it.

As her friends close ranks around her in attempt to protect her, Brodie realises that only when finds the answers she is looking for will she be safe.

When I first started reading this, I did wonder whether I would finish it.  (It’s not often that I can’t finish a book).  I struggled to connect with both the story and Brodie – though this might have had more to do with me having a cold than anything else.  However, I persevered and I am so glad that I did.  About thirty pages in, I suddenly couldn’t put this book down.  This very dark and disturbing thriller is gripping right to the very end.

Once the story gets going, the pace is immense.  There are so many twists and turns in the storyline, some you might expect, others that you might not.  The atmosphere conjured by Grace Monroe (the writing partnership of Maria Thomson and Linda Watson-Brown) is dark and evocative as we are taken to the extremes of life in Edinburgh.  The characters we meet along the way are memorable and the addition of a historical conspiracy to the novel only further enhances the mysteries that need to be solved.

I would definitely recommend this book to fans of dark thrillers, and I am looking forward to reading the second Brodie McClennan book, Blood Lines.  I am intrigued to find out where Brodie goes from here.