Recently, I have been reading...

These are the books that I have read since Christmas 2009. My thoughts and verdict are primarily for my own benefit so that I can decide what book to read next, but they may be of use to you too.

The Geneva Deception by James Twinning (Fiction)

posted 14 Apr 2010, 16:47 by DP Durlston-Powell

Backcover blurb:

A missing masterpiece. A shocking truth. An alliance signed in blood. For Lieutenant Allegra Damico, the brutal murder of a mafia enforcer offers her an unexpected opportunity to jump start her career. When the body of a senior official at a Vatican-backed bank turns up under similar conditions, it becomes clear the killings are, in fact, the opening shots of a war. In Las Vegas, former art thief Tom Kirk has agreed to help Special Agent Jennifer Browne handle the recovery of a priceless Caravaggio. The painting, stolen over forty years before, has suddenly surfaced and Jennifer is determined to recover it, but a sniper lies in wait. Tom, accused by the FBI of being involved in the shooting escapes to Italy, crossing paths with Allegra. They team up realising their cases are connected. What they uncover is a vast and powerful conspiracy stretching from the scarred fields of Italy to the marbled halls of the world's greatest museums. A conspiracy built on the graves of the dead and the blood of anyone who dares to stand in its way.

Books from the same author:
                              The Gilded Seal by James Twining (Fiction)

My review:

This is a good book with a fast-paced plot that is clever enough to leave you guessing until almost the end and yet is strong enough that once the veil is lifted, you are left satisfied that the motivations, plot and outcomes all hang together well. A clear continuation of Twinning's earlier Tom Kirk books, Twinning shows that he isn't frightened of killing off a strong and well developed character; an act that increases my desire to read his titles yet to come as it leaves the door open for all sorts of plot twists without the curse of the Star Trek 'red shirt' phenomenon. What makes this plot harder to unravel than most, thereby keeping the suspense high, is Twinning's cunning in actually running 2 main plots as well as 2 far quieter third sub-plots as the reasons for the murders and other events. I spent the time trying to attribute all the actions on a single character plot and was very pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

Verdict:

Makes me want to read his first 2 books in the Tom Kirk series and I'll keep an eye out for Twinning's future books.

Sphinx by TS Learner (Fiction)

posted 8 Apr 2010, 14:12 by DP Durlston-Powell   [ updated 14 Apr 2010, 15:04 ]

Backcover blurb:

An ancient treasure. A deadly sacrifice. And a secret to kill for. Alexandria, Egypt, 1977. During a dive to an old shipwreck, archaeologist Isabella Warnock uncovers an artefact unlike anything she has ever seen: an astrarium, a mysterious device rumoured to have shaped the destinies of pharaohs and kings since the beginning of time. But her discovery comes at a terrible price, and it falls to her husband Oliver to keep the priceless object safe. Up against a shadowy enemy and a powerful cult prepared to do anything for the treasure, Oliver is catapulted into a breakneck race to protect an ancient secret in a dangerous world of conspiracy and Egyptology, where age-old sorcery and legends clash violently with modern-day ambitions. Fast-paced and utterly gripping, SPHINX is the must-read thriller for fans of Kate Mosse and Dan Brown.

My review:

This genre is dominated by male authors and most of the books follow a well-trodden path, but Learner's novel arrives with a refreshingly different perspective that produces a satisfyingly strong narrative. The essential ingredients that define the genre are all present and correct: an ancient secret/artefact is uncovered; powerful groups of 'baddies' seem willing to do anything to gain it and turn it to their advantage; the lead character is forced into a world they're unfamiliar with; danger lurks around every corner; grim killers abound; a love interest surfaces and skin of the teeth escapes tumble forth. However, the plot twists are far more cunningly disguised than normal and left me guessing which characters could and couldn't be trusted. Also, the scrapes and escapes are more plausible than average without being any the less exciting. Every character's back story appears relevant and helps to propel the plot forward, whilst the mix of natural and supernatural is nicely balanced and delivers a pleasing final punchline. But most of all, the lead character's confusion, doubts, scepticism and motivation are all adeptly portrayed and allow the reader to connect in a way that is missing from most novels in the genre. There are a few very minor glitches that made me aware of the writing such as the astrarium being repeatedly described as 'a secret for a thousand years' although it was lost in 342BC (ie 2352 years ago - more than double the claimed period ago) and has been used, according to the blurb, 'since the beginning of time' when it was apparently made for Ramses III (1220-1155 BC) which is hardly the same thing. But these were very minor bumps in an otherwise smooth and glorious road through splendid surroundings and shouldn't detract from the fact that this is undoubtedly one of the smartest, most compelling novels of its genre and stands head and shoulders above the works of Kate Mosse and Dan Brown, against which it compares itself.

My verdict:

I want to keep an eye out for more of Learner's work - this one easily makes it into the Top 5 list.

The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry (Fiction)

posted 29 Mar 2010, 07:00 by DP Durlston-Powell   [ updated 4 Apr 2010, 09:42 ]

Backcover blurb:

The ancient Order of the Knights Templar possessed untold wealth and absolute power over kings and popes... until the Inquisition, when the Knights were wiped from the face of the earth, their riches left hidden - forever? In a quest to find the legendary lost treasures of the Knights Templar, Stephanie Nelle must crack a series of centuries old puzzles to unlock an ancient mystery. But she soon finds herself up against a deadly rival. So she calls on former covert US Justice Department agent Cotton Malone for help. Together they embark on a heart-racing chase across a chessboard of European villages, castles and cloisters, competing against powerful forces who will stop at nothing to win the historic prize. And at the end of a lethal game rife with intrigue, treachery and lust for power lies a shattering discovery that could rock the civilized world - and, in the wrong hands, bring it to its knees.

Books from the same author:
The Amber Room by Steve Berry (Fiction)
The Third Secret by Steve Berry (Fiction)

My review:


There is just something about the Templars; is it the compelling mystery, the lure of grand historic moments, the ability to make good authors write very average books? Certainly, all of those elements are here. Berry's previous work has been described as '...raises this genre's stakes' which is fair, but unfortunately, this novel is very much of it's genre and doesn't raise the stakes at all. It's not a poor example of Templar fiction, but it doesn't stand out from the crowd as it is based on the same speculative sources as many other similar thrillers and ignores historical fact, replacing it with wild claims that, whilst seen in print before, have been repeatedly proven untrue. On the basis of Berry's previous work, I had hoped for a more intelligent handling rather than something slap bang, middle of the road for this genre. So looking at it within that context, how does it fare? Well, the twist over the seneschal's identity and the double crossings were all obvious well before their reveal and many of the characters' motivations were inconsistent and unconvincing, so pretty standard stuff. The 'shattering discovery' is the almost obligatory 'Christ was real, but just a man' testimony that is seen in many Templar novels. Fro me, the characters of Henrik and Cassiopeia ultimately fail to deliver on their promise and hinted mysteries with them are never addressed satisfactorily - this may be a stepping stone to Berry's later books, but if so, I found it irritating rather than intriguing. And finally, I really did not take to the hero's name - Cotton Malone feels corny and should be the name of a character in a spoof detective novel or a Naked Gun film! This is far from being the worst Templar novel I have read, but it is also far from the top of the pile.

Verdict:

For a Templar novel it is fun for the ignorant, but it is run of the mill and lacks the creativity and originality of Berry's earlier books.

The Awful Secret by Bernard Knight (Fiction)

posted 25 Mar 2010, 03:28 by DP Durlston-Powell   [ updated 25 Mar 2010, 04:19 ]

Backcover blurb:

Gilbert de Rideford is a Knight of the Temple of Solomon, and an old acquaintance from Crowner John's crusading days. He claims to have come into possession of a secret that could shake Christendom to its very foundations - and he desperately needs John's help to escape from the secretive order of warrior monks. Suddenly swpet into a world of religious intrigue and dangerous politics, Sir John de Wolfe finds himself undertaking a life-threatening mission to the island of Lundy - inhabited solely by notorious pirates - and uncovering the extraordinary truth behind the awful secret itself.

Books from the same author:
The Sanctuary Seeker by Bernard Knight (Fiction)
The Poisoned Chalice by Bernard Knight (Fiction)
Crowner's Quest by Bernard Knight (Fiction)

My thoughts:

Worst book of the series so far and I hope that it isn't a sign of things to come as it has an 'also-ran' plot that just doesn't hold together, characters acting out of character and a failed attempt to cross genres. With so many second rate Templar conspiracy novels out there, it seemed like a nice change to read about them when they were at their height in the context of the historical setting that Knight has so carefully and vividly developed. However, having read some of the usual books that pass for research for Templar conspiracy novels, Knight has decided that there was evidence of wrongdoing more than 100 years before Philip IV brutal overthrowing of the Templars. There is scant enough academic evidence for the claims within The Holy Blood & The Holy Grail or Bloodline of the Holy Grail and none for the main thrust of this novel, that there was any suggestion of such activities in 1195. As a result, this book takes a large step away from being based in historical fact and ties itself to the mast of conspiratorial conjecture in a way that just doesn't sit well with the earlier books of the series. Things are not helped by the dislocation between the two plots in the book - the pirates being investigated are not from Lundy as the blurb suggests, nor do any of the pirates nor Lundy have anything to do with the Templar plot. Then come the plot holes: the knights and future inquisitor that follow de Rideford to Devon cannot find him at de Wolfe's family estate when the newly arrived de Blanchefort can manage immediately it with less evidence; rather than hiding de Blanchefort away safely until the Templars and Cosimo leave, the Crowner has him carted around Devon always just a stone's throw away from the people searching for him; and Cosimo overlooks de Wolfe's stunt with Gwyn outside Exeter cathedral. None of these are likely, nor plausible and yet are essential to keeping the threadbare plot staggering forward to its thankful demise. With luck, Knight will have got the big-seller bandwagon jumping plot devices out of his system with this book and can return to the far better standard he had set with his previous Crowner John tales. This fare only just avoided hitting the worst 5 listing!

Verdict:

It's no awful secret, this is an awful book. Let's hope for a return to form in future outings for Crowner John.

Silent Tears by Paul Henke (Fiction)

posted 22 Mar 2010, 05:29 by DP Durlston-Powell   [ updated 22 Mar 2010, 06:27 ]

Backcover blurb:


From the depths of depression and the rise of fascism to the abdication of Edward VII and the Spanish Civil War, Henke's meticulous research brings the period and vibrant characters to life. David, powerful and dynamic, at the centre of political intrigue, his love for the family is put to the ultimate test... Meg, stalwart and determined, guides the family with humour and devotion... and Susan, beautiful and tempestuous, fighting for justice. No sacrifice is too great for those she loves.

Books from the same author:
A Million Tears by Paul Henke (Fiction)
The Tears of War and Peace by Paul Henke (Fiction)

My thoughts:

A return to form within the very strong story of the Griffiths saga. Only a whisker short of being as good as the classic first instalment, A Million Tears, this is still a very, very good book. Having sidestepped the need to cover the close action of the First World War in the second novel, Henke shows his skill in covering the Spanish Civil War and finding that tricky balance between delivering exciting action and avoiding over-glorification of war. He has hit what I believe to be the absolute 'sweet spot' as Susan's actions are always daring and gripping, but not heroic and the dreadful results of war are clearly seen and shared - as a well read fan of history, military history and historical fiction, I can attest that do not recall a novel where the balance has been so well met and maintained.  Against the continued strong background of European and domestic politics, business intrigues and the family success, Henke manages to examine the tempestuous nature of youthful passion for a cause and compare it directly against the view of experienced eyes that can appear more wise, but less willing to make a difference. A challenging subject area to make the reader think about, but one that is well demonstrated by the travails of the different generations of the Boucher families. It was also good to see a chink of fallibility in the Griffiths' armour of previous omniscience as their ability to always identify the most profitable and successful path was becoming less credible after two books - it was simply becoming increasingly improbable that everything could turn to gold and the wireless factory nicely addressed that issue. The production values remain and as with the rest of the series so far they are notably above the average making this a book that is a delight to hold. There also appears to be more love poured into the text again; reading this, you get the feeling that Henke is proud of this work - and so he should be as it is excellent. The narrative is as engrossing as the first novel and with less to make the reader aware of the writing than in the second book; indeed, I only saw what appeared to be one 'mistake' that made me think of the writing and that was when a minor cousin (Huw) is killed in a mine accident, but appears to be a pall bearer at his uncle's funeral a short while later. It has no material impact on the story, but was enough to stop me reading and prompt me to check back and see if I had read things correctly. But more importantly than one minor criticism, Henke has again increased the emotional impact of his writing to approach the levels that kicked off this saga - the events from the departure from Gibraltar onwards were particularly emotively written. Clearly, the departure of the fleet from a port is an event that Henke would be very familiar with and one that he portrays with a layer of sadness that fits with the loss of one of the main characters. The subsequent family loss is also delicately and emotionally captured and yet the book ends positively even with the readers' knowledge that the Second World War is about to start. Yet again, Henke would have made it in my top 5 (see the left of this page) if I hadn't decided to only allow one entrant per series and I feel that it is only availability and exposure that have prevented this book from gracing every reader's shelf in the country, so I once again provide a link directly to the author's website as it seems to be the only place to reliably obtain this book - www.henke.co.uk. Get it, read it and delight in it.

Verdict:

Another classic that continues this saga of finely melded fact and fiction. A must-buy piece of literary brilliance that deserves a hardback release with wider availability and recognition.

The Moses Stone by James Becker (Fiction)

posted 14 Mar 2010, 07:19 by DP Durlston-Powell   [ updated 14 Mar 2010, 08:01 ]

Backcover blurb:

An ancient code. A clay tablet covered in ancient writing is found by an English couple in Morocco. A day later they are dead, killed in a car crash. But where is the relic they died to protect? A sinister secret. Determined to uncover a secret that's endured for two millennia, Chris Bronson follows a trail of clues that lead him from the hustle of a Moroccan souk to the deserted caves of Qumran; from the sinister echoes of a water-filled tunnel under the city of Jerusalem to a windswept fortress whose name spells death. A deadly chase for the truth. Threatened on every side by violent extremists, Bronson is plunged into a mystery rooted in biblical times. For the stone he must find is older and far more dangerous than he could ever have imagined...

Books from the same author:
The First Apostle by James Becker (Fiction)

My thoughts:

This is somewhat better than Becker's first book, although it can still only be described as a light and quick read. Unfortunately, its larger than average pages prevent it from being the ideal travel read. The premise is similar to the first novel; the same cop (who behaves and speaks even less like a UK detective than ever) and his ex-wife who works at the British museum end up embroiled in a race against bad guys to recover an ancient, religious secret/artefact. Unlike the first book which shows that Christianity is a made-up con of a religion, this time, the intrepid duo prove that Judaism was right all along about Moses. Rather simplistically, in this book the baddies intend to fund the Palestinians with the treasure, the 'amateur baddies' are British, whilst Mossad are the cavalry who ride in to save the day. This very basic portrayal suggests where Becker's views may lay, especially when viewed in conjunction with the first book, although it also displays a superficial and media driven perspective. That said, this is an action novel rather than a socio-political academic tome, but the tone does give me the impression that research was primarily done via the Discovery channel and pro-Israeli websites, apart from one exchange that appears to be lifted almost word for word from an episode of QI! Still inspiration comes from varied places. At least the object of the hunt is again out of the mainstream for this genre which would often chase the Ark rather than its contents and the links placed for the next novel suggest a move away from the increasingly strained coincidences that would require a British cop (come superhero) and his ancient pottery expert of an ex-wife from getting involved in another chase. I will probably read the next book, but I hope he stays away from the horrible, horrible cliché of the rival, 'baddie' academic making the same mistake of interpretation and realising the correct location simultaneously, but independently, from the goodies. It is such an obvious plot device that it takes the reader, groaning, out of the story.

Verdict:

Average for the genre and a fun, frothy read. I will give his next book a try to see how the tone changes in light of the 'partnership'.

The Tears of War and Peace by Paul Henke (Fiction)

posted 10 Mar 2010, 02:09 by DP Durlston-Powell   [ updated 10 Mar 2010, 03:43 ]

Backcover blurb:

In the spring of 1912 London is the centre of western civilisation. David Griffiths is determined to grab every opportunity but gets caught up in the suffragette movement, falling for the tempestuous Emily. The First World War is looming, social change is everywhere. Enmity, deception and intrigue abound but do not stop David's family building a business empire spanning Europe and America. The Tears of War and Peace is truly a mighty epic. Henke's characters come to life against the backdrop of the time. His research, as always, is meticulous.

Books from the same author:
A Million Tears by Paul Henke (Fiction)

My thoughts:

If you return to a restaurant where you previously had the perfect sirloin steak and this time you have a good, but not outstanding T-bone, then you can't help but being disappointed. So it is with Henke's Tears of War and Peace; after the brilliance of A Million Tears this book is disappointing despite being a good maybe even a very good read. The tale of the Griffiths' rise to power continues apace and certainly carries the reader along in an era brought to life, making you want to know what happens next, but the intensity of the first novel is missing. Some pivotal events that could (should) have been delivered with the emotional strength displayed in Dai's story in the previous book, are underplayed as to be almost bland by comparison. Emily's fate is not only obviously and heavily signposted, but the family reaction is an almost immediate dusting off of the hands and continuing effectively as before. Yes, it is an event that drives some of David's later actions, but I understood his actions rather than empathised with him as the emotional intensity of Emily's loss is missing when compared to Sian's loss in the previous instalment. Evan's death is similarly inevitable and the reader has no doubt that it will happen and is left simply to wonder how he will die, just to be disappointed with the blandness of his family's eventual reaction. What appears to be missing most is the love of the book that I mentioned when having read A Million Tears; a number of errors and odd decisions give the impression that less care was taken with the sequel. In terms of writing, we see an example of this when we are told that David has been on the run since von Ludwig's death (page 263) despite that death not being something the reader is told about for another 8 pages, thereby making that point a jarring note that pulls the reader out of the book and be aware of the writing rather than the tale. The lack of care is also shown within the book production with some more obvious proof-reading errors (Sean instead of Sion etc) and the insertion of 4 blank pages in the last chapter. Having said all that, it must not be forgotten that this is a good book, notably better than the majority of best sellers when it comes to plot development, the use of background research and bringing the characters and era to life. It is also more readable, engrossing and entertaining than the majority of the recent years' Man Booker nominees. If I had not decided to only ever place one book from a series in my Top 5 Reads list (see the bar to the left) this would have made it there, but as it is A Million Tears continues  to fly the flag for now. As I noted in the last review, Henke's books are hard to buy and so I again provide the link directly to his website - www.henke.co.uk - where, I have only just discovered, he will write a dedication in the book for you and sign it before sending it to you. Unfortunately, I have also discovered (when I tried to buy it) that the fourth book in this series, Tears Until Dawn, is unavailable even there and I have just had to pay significantly over the cover price on eBay for a second hand copy of the final instalment. Judging by the first two volumes, I suspect that it will be worth the expense!

Verdict:

A good book that only suffers when compared to its outstanding predecessor.

A Million Tears by Paul Henke (Fiction)

posted 3 Mar 2010, 02:03 by DP Durlston-Powell   [ updated 14 Apr 2010, 15:05 ]

Backcover blurb:

A Million Tears is a mighty epic: a tale of love and hate, murder and suicide, poverty and wealth - this is the story of a family whose devotion for each other helps them to succeed where others fail. From the hardship and poverty of Wales in 1890 to the optimism and wealth of America, the book describes in vivd detail the family's journey to success. It takes the reader to the exotic corruption of the Carribean, the brutality of the American west and describes accurately the excitement of the pioneers in the early twentieth century.

My thoughts:

A masterclass in writing! Anyone that aspires to write a novel should read this to see how well planning, research and character development can be done. The novel is biography of the fictional Sir David Griffiths and the prologue is the interaction between the elderly knight and a reporter who is the fictional author. Sir David was born in 1880 and the biography is written from interviews in the 1960s, meaning that there are many major events that happen within his lifespan and with which he is involved, making this a great read for anyone that has an interest in this time in history as it brings the period to vivid life. Although the novel charts the Griffiths lives in chronological order, it does it in sections where events are seen through the eyes of different family members as they play a greater or lesser part in that portion of the tale; so we see the poverty and tragedy of Welsh mining through the eyes of ten year old David in Dai's story, whilst the escape to a new life in America is Evan's story (David's father) and their rise to success is Uncle James's story and so on. This is a great vehicle as it keeps the prose fresh throughout. Henke's ability to fully capture the reader in the utterly convincing world he portrays is outstanding and the emotional intensity he creates, especially in the first section - Dai's Story - is some of the strongest I have read in any book. I have not been brought to tears by a novel for a number of years, yet I had to stop four times within the first eight chapters as I could no longer see to read. Thankfully, that emotional wringer is loosened, although not completely, in the subsequent sections of the book otherwise I wouldn't have had the strength to move onto the other books within this series; which is what I am doing without delay as I need to know what happens to the Griffiths as the spectre of the First World War looms towards them!

Aside from the excellent quality of the writing, I also have some other thoughts regarding this book. Firstly, and somewhat unusually, the production value of the book itself is of noticeably high quality. The pages are bright white and smooth in a way that makes this book a further delight to hold. This isn't an aspect of a book that I would normally comment on, but it strengthens the impression given by the narrative itself, that this book is a work of love and dedication. Secondly, I am appalled that this book does not seem to be getting the commercial success it deserves. Despite a review in the Sun newspaper, most coverage seems to be only at a local level and the main bookshops don't seem to stock his work at all. Because of this, I take the unusual step of providing this link directly to the author's own site - www.henke.co.uk - but rest assured that I have not spoken with the author at all nor do I have any link to him ahead of writing this piece and so my views remain staunchly my own.

Verdict:

A classic novel that should be read by everybody. So good that I am considering buying a second copy just to sit pristine on the shelf ready for when I return to it in the future. I only wish it were available as a quality hardback.

The Great Philosophers by Stephen Law (Non-fiction)

posted 25 Feb 2010, 15:34 by DP Durlston-Powell   [ updated 25 Feb 2010, 16:14 ]

Backcover blurb:

Spanning over 2500 years of humanity's quest for understanding, The Great Philosophers explores the fundamental ideas that have changed our view of the world. Moving from the Budha, Confucius and the celebrated thinkers of ancient Greece to latter-day geniuses such as Nietzsche, Wittgenstein and Satre, Stephen Law condenses and deciphers the key thoughts of 50 of history's greatest minds. Whether illuminating Socrates's methods and Machiavelli's lesson on how to rule, or clarifying the aims behind Descartes's famous 'I think, therefore I am' and Kant's 'moral law within', the emphasis is on clear and concise explanation. Avoiding the technical jargon and complex logic associated with most books on philosophy, here are straightforward descriptions of Plato and Locke on reality, Augustine and Satre on freedom, Hobbes and Rousseau on government, Berkley and Hume on God, Nietzsche and Mill on morality, Wittgenstein and Russell on meaning, and many others. Each explanation is accompanied by a biographic sketch and iconic image of the philosopher in question, alongside significant quotations from their major works. Highly accessible and thought-provoking, this is the perfect introduction to philosophy.

My thoughts:

An interesting book on many levels. Firstly, for someone who knows next to nothing about philosophy and philosophers (ie me) this seems like quite a good introduction; it brings a wide range of information into a single source and delivers it in an easy to understand way. There is nothing here about the philosophers themselves that I couldn't find on the internet, provided I knew who to search for, but the book shows the benefits and drawback of a firm editorial process. The benefits are clear: the most important philosphers are already selected for me even if I've never heard of them; the information about each philosopher and their views is succinctly and consistantly delivered, and; Law compares, contrasts or highlights parallels in the thoughts of different philosophers, thereby providing greater value that a straight recitation of facts. This means that the common themes are developed through the views of many individuals. The drawback of the editorial process that even someone as inexperienced as me notices is the selective nature of what is covered about each philosopher. This a problem inherent with the format - you simply can't do justice to people in 4 pages where there are already numerous books written by or about each one. However, it would have helped me to have a paragraph indicating the range of issues tackled by each individual before diving into the area that Law had decided was the most important. For example, I know that Thomas Aquinas must have covered more than the morality of homosexuality, but there is no hint of what and this frustrates me because it leaves me without enough knowledge to decide how much time I want to spend on reading further about Aquinas in other books. As this is true of each of the fifty philosophers covered, the book fails in my view to provide a good introduction as it hasn't inspired me to delve deeper or given me sufficient knowledge to target further reading.

Verdict:

An interesting book that falls between stalls, not as good a basic reference source as the internet, nor a solid introduction to philosophy.

The Shadow Project by Scott Mariani (Fiction)

posted 22 Feb 2010, 08:16 by DP Durlston-Powell   [ updated 9 Mar 2010, 11:16 ]

Backcover blurb:

An international conspiracy that could change the course of history... Ex-SAS hero Ben Hope is enjoying his new life in France, training others in the dangerous art of kidnap and rescue - until he is forced into providing protection for Swiss billionaire Maximillian Steiner. Steiner believes that a sinister neo-Nazi terrorist cell are targeting him to seize a prized historical document, one which could support claims that the Holocaust never happened. Delving deeper, Ben discovers that the group are also hell-bent on recovering a terrifying technology that has lain dormant since World War II. But when a shocking revelation about his own past throws his assignment into chaos, he must draw on all of his powers to halt the deadly plan. The stakes are global - and this time Ben is also fighting to protect the people closest to him...

Books from the same author:
The Heretic's Treasure by Scott Mariani (Fiction)

My thoughts:

So, to review the plot... Ben Hope's only chance to save his business is to lead a team of bodyguards in protecting a Swiss billionaire from Nazi extremists. The team is at Ben's training camp, but he makes no attempt to train them or brief them or even talk to them! Then the leader of the Nazis turns out to be the billionaire's daughter, except she is also Ben's sister that has not been mentioned in previous books, but who was kidnapped 23 years earlier and subsequently adopted by the billionaire. Oh, and she isn't really a Nazi, but a PhD-holding physicist that has turned her back on the 'corruption and hypocrisy' of the scientific establishment (which is apparently determined to silence criticism of the Big Bang theory amongst other crimes) and now makes pottery with her boyfriend. So that's alright then. Meanwhile a shadowy, unknown, wealthy criminal mastermind is trying to turn a Nazi free energy machine into a huge bomb within a huge underground Nazi complex that nobody knows about. You never see this mastermind, just his minions, but he will probably be Ben Hope's nemesis in a future story. Meanwhile, trained, dead-eyed, professional killers miss their targets even when both are stood in the same corridor. When they do manage to shoot a good guy, it's always in the shoulder and misses any bone whilst Ben's zippo lighter can shield him from machine gun fire! On the other hand, good guys can make cars explode by shooting them with a shotgun from 40 yards away, have 60 year old weapons work just when needed and kill people in cold blood whilst still being the heroes. And to cap it all, there's even a kid to save and the hero gets the girl in the end. To quote from the book, "...one unlikely event tripping the next like a line of dominoes. Absurd." So with plot holes you can drive a bus through, characters that are cliched at best and events that defy any suspension of disbelief, this is a book that cannot be taken seriously. It strikes me as the literary equivalent of an early Arnie film - absurd, violent and cheesy, but fun in a guilty pleasure sort of a way.

Verdict:

Proof that the Sunday Times Best Seller list is not necessarily a mark of quality.

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