Quick Review: Sign of the Cross by Chris Kuzneski

Summary from Goodreads:

No secret will keep for ever …

A Vatican priest is found murdered on the shores of Denmark – nailed to a cross in the shadow of Hamlet’s castle. He is the first victim in a vicious killing spree that spans the world. Each horrific murder exactly mirrors the crucifixion of Christ … Meanwhile, deep in the Roman Catacombs of Orvieto, an archaeologist uncovers an ancient scroll dating back two thousand years. The scroll, he knows, holds the key to a dark and treacherous secret that will rock the very foundations of the Church. But only if he can decipher its lost meanings – and only if he can live long enough to reveal them …

The enemies of the truth know no law of man …

My Thoughts: 

I don’t often read books from a series out of order, but this time I did. Sign of the Cross is book 2 in the Payne and Jones series by Chris Kuzneski. I have mixed feelings about this book, hence the three stars. As a thriller, it is fairly solid if overly long (my copy runs to over 600 pages), with plenty of action and stuff getting blown up. However, I didn’t connect with any of the characters and as I read I got the distinct impression I probably wasn’t the target audience for the book. Not sure why. I certainly enjoy thrillers paired with crazy conspiracies and “what if” stories. Will I read any more from this series as Goodreads informs me there are nine books so far in it? Not sure.

Rating:

Book Review: The Shakespeare Secret by J.L. Carrell

The Shakespeare Secret is the first book by J.L Carrell to feature Kate Stanley.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A complex, fast-paced adventure through the world of Shakespeare, both past and present, which kept me entertained. 3.5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

A modern serial killer – hunting an ancient secret.

A woman is left to die as the rebuilt Globe theatre burns. Another woman is drowned like Ophelia, skirts swirling in the water. A professor has his throat slashed open on the steps of Washington’s Capitol building.

A deadly serial killer is on the loose, modelling his murders on Shakespeare’s plays. But why is he killing? And how can he be stopped?

Favourite Quote

The book that had rolled from the presses at last was a beautiful thing – a blatant bid to shift the author from the rowdy, disreputable world of the theatre to the eternal truths of poetry.

(From The Shakespeare Secret by J. L. Carrell, page 55)

Review

For the most part, I enjoyed this story.  It was an entertaining tale, full of action and adventure, and with plenty of twists and turns, reminding me in no small way of the writing of Dan Brown, especially the Da Vinci Code.  I had an idea of how the story was going to end, but I couldn’t quiet guess how it would get there, so it certainly kept me interested.

The story is presented as a Shakespeare play, with the modern story taking place during the “Acts” and the historical flashbacks / contexts taking place in the “Interludes” between. I understand the reason behind doing this, but I wonder if the book might have read better without the historical scenes.  The Acts were far longer than the interludes and the modern story complicated enough without stepping back in time to another cast of characters, whose own storylines themselves were convoluted.  Political and religious intrigues of the Elizabethan era, not to mention family trees, are complex, and when there is more than one character called “Will”, or the person in question is being referred to by their family name or title…yeah, it can be hard to keep up.

If you don’t like Shakespeare, or have no interest in his plays and sonnets, you probably won’t enjoy this book. Neither will you appreciate the references to his writing and life, made throughout the story, which were cleverly woven into the plot. Also, if you take Shakespeare and everything about him quite seriously, again you might not enjoy this book, especially if you have a firm view on whether Shakespeare was really the man behind the works attributed to him. But if you can separate the fictional entertainment from the scholarly aspects of the subject, I do think you will enjoy it.

I loved all the locations the story meanders through, some of which I’ve visited myself – Stratford-upon-Avon, and some you wouldn’t necessarily think of – Valladolid, Spain. The author clearly knows a lot about the subject, and this knowledge filters down through the storytelling.

It wasn’t until I was writing the review for The Shakespeare Secret that I realised the author has penned another book featuring Kate Stanley, Haunt Me Still, inspired by Macbeth.  Having been well-entertained with the first book, I would gladly give this second book a read.

Rating

3.5 / 5

Book Review: The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths

The Crossing Places is the first book in the Ruth Galloway Mysteries by Elly Griffiths.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Atmospheric and absorbing, The Crossing Places is a dark tale full of twists and turns and rich, vivid storytelling.  Ruth Galloway is an interesting main character, and this a fantastic start to a series.  I can’t wait to read more!  5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Forensic archaeologist Dr. Ruth Galloway is in her late thirties and lives happily alone with her two cats in a bleak, remote area near Norfolk, land that was sacred to its Iron Age inhabitants—not quite earth, not quite sea. But her routine days of digging up bones and other ancient objects are harshly upended when a child’s bones are found on a desolate beach. Detective Chief Inspector Nelson calls Galloway for help, believing they are the remains of Lucy Downey, a little girl who went missing a decade ago and whose abductor continues to taunt him with bizarre letters containing references to ritual sacrifice, Shakespeare, and the Bible. Then a second girl goes missing and Nelson receives a new letter—exactly like the ones about Lucy. Is it the same killer or a copycat murderer, linked in some way to the site near Ruth’s remote home?

Favourite Quote

“The human desire is to live, to cheat death, to live forever.  It is the same over all the ages.  It is why we build monuments to death so that they live on after we die.”

(From The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths, page 413)

Review

This book, like so many others, has been languishing on my TBR list for a ridiculous amount of time.  And now I’ve read it, I cannot understand why it had taken me so long to get it.  Every reader has those books which they feel were written for them.  The Crossing Places was one of those books for me.

There was no question of this book earning anything less than a 5 star rating from me…Dark, atmospheric and absorbing, it covers the subjects I have a great love for: archaeology, prehistory, geography, spirituality…all bound up wonderfully with a dark mystery.

The sense of place can not be underestimated in this book; the landscape is almost a character, dangerous yet not malevolent, an ever-present witness but emotionally detached from whatever unfolds.  The setting is brought to life in all its grey starkness.  Indeed, it is the perfect location for this storyline.  Liminality is a big theme running through it: we are between places…the earth and the sea, the past and the present, good and evil.

Ruth Galloway is a wonderfully complex character.  Intelligent, strong, independent and flawed, I warmed to her immediately.  She was depicted as human and imperfect and thus realistic.  DCI Nelson was also a great character.  Sensible, logical, he is practical yet caring.  I’m looking forward to seeing how they get along as the series continues.

The writing style of the author and the numerous plot twists and turns ensured my attention never wavered.  An undercurrent of mystery pervades every aspect of this book.  I guessed the culprit pretty early on, but as the story progressed I was repeatedly left wondering if I was right after all.  There are a few passages that are hard to read, but the topics are handled very sensitively.

The second book in the series is The Janus Stone, and I just know it won’t take me as long to get around to reading that as it did this first instalment.  I can’t recommend this book highly enough!

Rating


Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge 2019 – I’ve chosen this book for challenge #12 in the list: a book that’s sat on your shelf for longer than you care to remember

Book Review: The Owl Killers by Karen Maitland


Quick Review (read on for full review)

A fast-paced, chilling story of fear and superstition, set in fourteenth century rural England. A fantastic read.  Well-researched and wonderfully written.  Historical fiction at its best.  Unputdownable! 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

England, 1321. The tiny village of Ulewic teeters between survival and destruction, faith and doubt, God and demons. For shadowing the villagers’ lives are men cloaked in masks and secrecy, ruling with violence, intimidation, and terrifying fiery rites: the Owl Masters.

But another force is touching Ulewic—a newly formed community built and served only by women. Called a beguinage, it is a safe harbor of service and faith in defiance of the all-powerful Church.

Behind the walls of this sanctuary, women have gathered from all walks of life: a skilled physician, a towering former prostitute, a cook, a local convert. But life in Ulewic is growing more dangerous with each passing day. The women are the subject of rumors, envy, scorn, and fury…until the daughter of Ulewic’s most powerful man is cast out of her home and accepted into the beguinage—and battle lines are drawn.

Into this drama are swept innocents and conspirators: a parish priest trying to save himself from his own sins…a village teenager, pregnant and terrified…a woman once on the verge of sainthood, now cast out of the Church.…With Ulewic ravaged by flood and disease, and with villagers driven by fear, a secret inside the beguinage will draw the desperate and the depraved—until masks are dropped, faith is tested…and every lie is exposed.

Favourite Quote

I could have included so many, but I have whittled it down to two, the first, I think is certainly still relevant today…

*

Even when she was in a good mood Merchant Martha hated to be stuck behind anything, and fury did not improve her driving.

(The Owl Killers by Karen Maitland, pg 145)

*

‘…will you not make peace with God?’

‘What’s there to make peace about?  I’ve not spoken to God, nor He to me, so we’ve never had cause to quarrel.’

(The Owl Killers by Karen Maitland, pg 286)

Review

This was the first of Karen Maitland’s books I read, and I have been hooked on her writing ever since.  I first read this book sometime before 2014 (which was the year I shelved it on Goodreads) so it’s been a good long while since I last read it.  In my opinion, The Owl Killers is just as good as Company of Liars, if not better (it’s hard for me tell, because I love them both).

The Owl Killers is a story about myth, legend and folklore, new beliefs versus old ones, but most of all, it is a story about strong women at a time when being strong and confident in your womanhood went against contemporary opinions of how a woman should be:

‘…you mustn’t be afeared, you’ve got the strength of a woman.’

Servant Martha, Healing Martha, Pega, Gwenith, Agnes…they (and more of the characters beside) are inspiring and strong, even when they’re not certain of it themselves.  And, they are not all strong in the same way or face the same problems.  Each character faces some sort of hardship that would have been faced by the women of the Dark Ages.  And not only do they have their own personal issues to deal with, but as a collective, they have much to face also.  The common people fear them for they cannot understand them.  The Church is against them because they cannot control them, and this, at a time when the Church held the power of life and death in their hands.

A beguinage – a sanctuary for women who did not wish to marry or become a nun – sounds to me, the perfect refuge for a woman who seeks only to be herself, who seeks freedom from the dominance of others.  Of course, these communities were not without rules, the paramount one being that one must remain celibate as long as they were part of the community, but you also had to serve the community you were part of in some way; in the fields, in the infirmaries, etc.  These women were also educated and taught to read, and could be elected to the council of Martha’s who together ensured these establishments were run as well as they possibly could be.

The location of the story was perfect; an isolated, fictitious village in Norfolk serves as the cauldron where all things meet.  And the darker elements of folklore and superstition were spooky enough, scary enough, to ensure the reader understands why the local population behave as they do.  And the lengths some of them go to because of fear and superstition is chilling.

I enjoyed how the story was set out: the timeline reflects that of the day: saints days, feasts and festivals, and the months are given to indicate where in the year we are, and alongside each, there is a snippet or two of background information regarding the day.  All very interesting and very educational.

There is so much I could say about this book – I’ve yet to mention changing climates and catastrophes such as poor harvests – but, for fear of writing an essay, I had better bring this review to an end.  If you enjoy well-researched historical fiction combined with the gothic and supernatural, and a story well-grounded in the time it is set, I can’t recommend this book enough.  Unputdownable!

Rating

Book Review: Diamonds and Cole by Michael Maxwell

Diamonds and Cole is the first book in the Cole Sage series by Michael Maxwell.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Interesting and entertaining, I really like Cole Sage and am looking forward to reading more from this series. 4 / 5

Summary (from Wattpad)

Beaten, bloody but determined, Cole Sage conquers greed and hatred with a strength that only love and a will as hard as diamond can achieve.  He is blocked at every turn by the husband who has abandoned Cole’s great love, his shady real estate deals, violent con men, street thugs and the lure of a fortune in diamonds that bring them all together.  How far would you go for the one that got away?

Favourite Quote

“Any day above ground is a good day, I guess.” Cole replied.

(Diamonds and Cole by Michael Maxwell, Chapter 2)

Review

This story was not what I expected.  In a good way.  I was expecting a straight up mystery, but what I found instead was much deeper than that.  Highly emotional, tender and heart-breaking in places, Diamonds and Cole grabbed my attention from the very beginning and held on to it until the very end.

I love how Cole is described on the series page on Goodreads:

The Cole Sage series brings to life a new kind of hero. Short on vices, long on compassion and dedication to a strong sense of making things right. As a journalist he writes with conviction and purpose. As a friend he is not afraid to bend the law a bit to help and protect those he loves.

As the story unfolds, we get to learn almost everything about Cole Sage from the memories that are stirred by events along the way.  And there are a lot of them.  If you don’t like this particular way of introducing background information, you might have a hard time with this book.  I actually enjoyed them.  I thought they were both interesting and entertaining and provided varied insights into Cole’s character and history.

Cole is a fascinating character.  He is a product of his past mistakes and choices; it is these, rather than his successes and triumphs that have shaped him into the man we see in the story.  Ellie’s character was sensitively – and beautifully – written.

I find it quite difficult to place this story on my bookshelf.  More of a thriller or suspense read, maybe, than a mystery, ultimately, Diamonds and Cole is a story of redemption, and of righting mistakes.  But it has other elements too; romance, drama, danger, crime, characters from all sorts of backgrounds, with all sorts of motives for their action and behaviour.

This was a great first book in a series.  It was well-written and well-thought-out.  The characters and locations all came across as realistic.  Some of the plot twists you can guess before they happen, but it was still a very good read, and I like Cole very much.

I really enjoyed this story, and am interested in seeing where the next book, Cellar Full Of Cole, leads.  It has been added to my TBR list.

Rating

Book Review: Pendulum by Adam Hamdy

Pendulum is the first book in the Pendulum trilogy by Adam Hamdy.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Action-packed and fast-paced, this thriller had plenty of twists and turns that kept me guessing until the very end.  4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

You wake. Confused. Disorientated. A noose is round your neck. You are bound, standing on a chair. All you can focus on is the man in the mask tightening the rope. You are about to die.

John Wallace has no idea why he has been targeted. No idea who his attacker is. No idea how he will prevent the inevitable.

Then the pendulum of fate swings in his favour. He has one chance to escape, find the truth and halt his destruction. The momentum is in his favour for now. But with a killer on his tail, everything can change with one swing of this deadly pendulum…

You have one chance. Run.

Favourite Quote

The old adage that good things happen to good folk was a lie people told themselves to feel better about life.  Good things happen to folk who can rob or cheat their way to them.

(Pendulum by Adam Hamdy, page 153)

Review

This is one of those reads which, if you say too much, you could spoil what makes this book so bloody good.  So, I will review this sparingly…

I’m not sure what I expected when I started to read Pendulum, for the book summary doesn’t give too much away, but what I found was an action-packed, fast-paced thriller that kept me guessing as to what was going to happen at every turn, all the way to the end of the book.

John Wallace must be the unluckiest yet luckiest person in the world, but that doesn’t mean that this story was unconvincing.  It was.  Perhaps even a little too convincing in its believability.  The premise of the story is dark and menacing.  The bad guy is terrifying and seemingly unstoppable.  And as for the other characters, they are engaging and intriguing, with interesting back stories, who make a satisfying impact on the story.

The author’s writing style pulls you right into the story.  It is so well-written, and probably one of the best thrillers I’ve read in recent years.  It also reads like a movie; I could see the storyline playing out before me with very little effort at all.

It wasn’t until I was writing this review and about to post (my summarised version of) it on Goodreads, that I realised that this is the first book of a trilogy.  Of course, the ending suggested something else might follow but it wasn’t clear, and it wasn’t explicit, and many books have been given such an ending to encourage speculation in the reader rather than setting the ground work for future books.  I’m quite pleased about this, and am looking forward to reading the next instalment in the trilogy, Freefall, at some point. For now, it’s been added to my ‘Books To Buy’ list.

Rating

Book Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Gripping and compelling, this psychological thriller with an almost creepy undertone, asks the question, How well do we really know anyone else?  4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar. Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…

Favourite Quote

Life is not a paragraph and death is no parenthesis.

(from The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, pg17.  The quote is referencing a poem by E.E. Cummings)

Review

I might appear to be behind with this one, but just let me just say, I can’t read super popular books when they are in the middle of their super-crazy-popular phase.  I have to wait until things calm down a bit before I can read them.  Why? I’m not sure really.  Perhaps it has something to do with wanting to find my own opinion and judgement on the book, and not be swayed by anyone else’s…As I said, I’m not sure really.  I’m pleased to say that I managed to keep far enough away from the buzz of this one, that, when I did finally pick it up, I had no idea what the book was about, apart from what the book title and description alluded to.

The pace is fast and the style of writing makes for fast and easy reading.  I had trouble putting the book down once I really got into the story, thanks to the creepy undertone of this psychological thriller; I needed to find out what happened next.

There are three women at the heart of this story – Rachel, Anna and Megan – and to be honest, none of them are particularly likeable.  And that doesn’t just go for these three woman; I would be hard pressed to name a character I actually liked in the book.

I felt very sorry for Rachel for what she had been through, and pitied her tremendously regarding her present situation.  On more than one occasion I had to put book the down as I found myself cringing so badly in reaction to what she was saying and doing; I just had to stop reading, pause and take a breather, before I could continue on.  My reaction to it reminded me of that scene from Friends when the book has to go into the freezer.  I spent most of the book not liking Anna at all.  I didn’t feel sorry for her and found her somewhat annoying, in a whiny, I want things my own way, sort of way.  And as for Megan and her destructive personality – gosh.  Then there was Scott and Tom…

What makes this book work and work well, is that the reader knows the characters can’t be trusted; they are unreliable narrators, as they admit to themselves they have blackouts and can’t remember things or hide things they don’t want to see from themselves as well as those around them.  So the story we are presented with is seen through a distorted prism and the reader is waiting for the picture to clear.  I did see the twist coming, but that in no way diminished my enjoyment of the book.  In fact, I think it heightened the tension.

This books asks the question: how well do we really know anyone else, even those we are close to, those we love, those we share our lives with?  What secrets might be lurking just below the surface, and what will happen when they finally come out?

This was definitely a gripping and compelling read, but I’ve only rated it four stars because it was filled, in my opinion, with wholly unlikeable characters whom, for the most part, I could not really connect to.  There are a number of emotional scenes in the story, which certainly ramped up the empathy factor but if you need to like the characters in the book you’re reading to enable you to enjoy it, this might not be for you.  But if love your fiction tense, psychological and full of secrets, where the mystery takes centre stage, then you might very well enjoy it.

Rating

Book Review: The Crow Trap by Ann Cleeves

The Crow Trap is the first book in the Vera Stanhope series by Ann Cleeves

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A moody and atmospheric landscape combined with rich and compelling storytelling.  A great mystery read with an unconventional yet interesting and engaging main character.  I will be reading more of the Vera Stanhope books.  4.5 / 5

Summary (from back of book)

At the isolated Baikie’s Cottage in the North Pennines, three very different women come together to complete an environmental study.  Three women who each know the meaning of betrayal.

For team leader Rachel, the project is the perfect opportunity to rebuild her confidence after a double betrayal by Peter Kemp, her lover and boss.  Anne, on the other hand, sees it as a chance to indulge in a little deception of her own.  And then there is Grace, a strange, uncommunicative young woman with plenty to hide.

When Rachael arrives at the cottage, she is horrified to discover the body of her friend, Bella Furness.  It appears Bella has committed suicide – something Rachael finds impossible to accept.

It is only after the next death occurs that a fourth woman enters the picture – the unconventional Detective Vera Stanhope…

Favourite Quote

‘You’re not frightened of going on your own, are you?  It’s only a baby.  It’ll not bite.’

(from The Crow Trap by Ann Cleeves, pg 463)

Review

I’ve only seen a couple of the TV episodes of “Vera” which are based on these books, but the ones I have seen I found compelling and engaging.  So when I came across The Crow Trap by chance, (of course, I was not shopping for books 😉 ) I was more than happy to give it a read.

As I read, I clearly envisaged / could hear the actors from the show (Brenda Blethyn playing Vera; David Leon playing Joe Ashworth) playing their parts in the book.  I like it when that happens; I think it illustrates good casting choices and character continuity between book and screen.

The writing and storytelling is very moody and atmospheric, mirroring the landscape the story is set in perfectly.  Although the book is a long one – it’s around 530 pages – the story flows well and doesn’t drag.  As a main character, Vera Stanhope is different.  She is brash and speaks plain.  Her appearance immediately puts people at a disadvantage because she is not the person they think she is.  She is clever, intelligent, calculating, abrupt and has a no-nonsense way about her.  I thought she was fantastic.

I enjoyed how the story was set out.  We are given the stories of Rachael, Anne and Grace separately, allowing us to get to know the characters themselves, rather than just seeing what they chose to project outwards.  The ending was very good; I had my suspicions about the culprit, but I was nowhere near certain.  Of course, there are clues; the author doesn’t hide all the pertinent information until the denouement, you just have to sift through the information.

My only grumble is that we didn’t get to meet Vera herself (unless you consider one brief, strange appearance at a funeral) until 200 plus pages into the story.  However, it didn’t not detract from my overall enjoyment of the story as I’ve already mentioned I appreciated the set up.  That’s why I deducted half a star from my rating.

Not only do I plan to continue reading this series (the second book is Telling Tales), but having watched every episode of Shetland, which is also based on books by Ann Cleeves, I hope to get around to reading that series too (the first book in that series is Raven Black).  I also plan to catch up with the TV adaptations of Vera as well.

Highly recommended to fans of British mysteries, and those who have seen the TV show but have yet to delve into the books.

Rating

4.5 / 5

Book Review: Winter Prey by T.M. Simmons

Winter Prey is the first book in the Northwood Prey series by T.M. Simmons.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An engaging read, full of vivid descriptions and interesting characters.  I would definitely read this again. 4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Terrified she will harm hew newly-adoped daughter in the throes of a PTSD flashback, Kymbria James travels to the far Northwood of Minnesota to work with a Native American healer. As the monster captures one after another tribal member and drags each off to its lair, Kymbria is forced into the quest to destroy it. She must confront both her emotional situation and the monster only she can eradicate…if she can find the courage.

Favourite Quote

You are not sure of your own strength.  None of us are.

Review

I enjoyed this book.  Although to begin with I found it to be a slow burn, it gathered pace the more I read, until eventually I couldn’t put it down.

Kymbria is an interesting character.  She is strong and independent, and her determination in the face of adversity is inspiring.  As for the other characters, Caleb’s history makes him the perfect addition to the story, and there is an air of mystery surrounding the Native American healer, Keoman.

The storyline was gripping.  Not only must Kymbria come to terms with the fact that a monster – a Windigo – from her people’s mythology is real, but when it takes an interest in her personally, she must deal with it along with all the other drama going on in her life.

There is plenty of vivid description throughout the story, bringing the landscape in which it is set to life.  I could clearly imagine what was taking place and where as I read.  The dialogue was realistic, and the storyline, even though it contained elements of the paranormal and a mythical creature, was believable.

My only criticism is the ending.  I felt the story ended too abruptly and though one story line was satisfactorily resolved, another was only hinted at.  As it’s the first book in the series, there is a potential for this to be tackled in the next book.

The second book in the Northwood Prey series is Silent Prey.  I’ve added it to my TBR.

A great read, one I would recommend to those who enjoy paranormal mysteries.

Rating

 

Book Review: The Mask of Troy by David Gibbins

The Mask of Troy is the fifth book by David Gibbins to feature Jack Howard.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An imaginative story containing some interesting passages and characters, but tempered by the inclusion of some heavy, lengthy descriptions. Well worth the read, if only for the ancient history and archaeology.  3 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Greece. 1876. Heinrich Schliemann, the great archaeologist, raises the Mask of Agamemnon and makes a mind-blowing discovery. Determined to keep it a secret until the time is right, he then dies.

Germany. 1945. The liberation of a concentration camp reveals clues to lost antiquities stolen by the Nazis. But the operation is covered up after a deadly secret surfaces. Northern Aegean.

Present day. Marine archaeologist Jack Howard discovers a shipwreck, part of the war fleet of Agamemnon, king of the Greeks, and soon becomes embroiled in a desperate chase across Europe against a ruthless enemy…

Favourite Quote

The air had been cleansed by the rain, but the smells were rising again: rosemary, thyme, the sweet ether that seemed to float above these ancient sites, an exhalation from history too powerful to be washed away by a transient act of nature.

Review

I really enjoyed parts of this book.  It was interesting to read about marine / underwater archaeology and the complexities involved, such as tidal patterns and how these effect not only working conditions while excavating but also how they can alter the appearance of the context in which artefacts are found. However, there are lengthy technical descriptions which were a little harder to read, which affected the pace of the book.

I liked the historical aspect of the storyline (both real and fictional), in terms of the discussions on ancient Troy, Mycenae and Homer and the mystery surrounding Heinrich Schliemann’s behaviour in the latter half of the nineteenth century.  But I found the Nazi story thread too much.  I understand why it was there: to create the thriller / mystery part of the book, but still.

As for the characters, I liked them, though the cast seemed extensive.  Jack Howard was interesting (though the other characters had a tendency to go on about how great he was). Costas Kanzantzakis made a great side-kick (I think he was my favourite character).  Professor James Dillon had the air of the aging adventurer about him.  Rebecca I wasn’t sure about; I liked her but found the things she got up to a little far-fetched for a 17 year old.

The author’s passion for the subjects involved is clear and obvious to the reader.  However, the heaviness of some passages does impact on the book’s pace, hence the rating.  So, a bit of a mixed review, but well worth the read if only for the ancient history and archaeology.

Rating