Archaeologist Grace Madison is in Brussels cataloguing looted antiquities whenher son's bride is attacked in Switzerland. Her day careens from bad to catastrophic when daughter Maggie, a hydrologist, disappears in France.
Coincidence is a luxury that Grace cannot afford. Particularly when near-fatal history---saturated in espionage---is repeating itself.
The Madison family converges on Paris. Frenzied research unearths the evil threatening the unorthodox operatives: a legend intertwining Solomon, Martin Luther, and the Fourth Crusade. Embedded like a taproot in the Ancient Near East, a cuneiform clay tablet is their only lifeline. And insufficient when they collide with a familiar enemy, and unwittingly reveal too much.
Deceiving them at every turn, an old friend stands at the end of the three-continent, four-thousand-year-old race. As they jeopardize hearts and lives, they discover that to save themselves, they must first rescue him.
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Maggie, the daughter, was abducted before she could give a talk at a seminar. She was speculating on a water source for Solomon's Mines at Timna – a source that might still be available today and therefore very valuable. The motley group of the Madisons, their adult children and various Mossad and other intelligence operatives, have one half of an ancient scroll and are searching for the other half. The search takes them from Venice to various locations, including a snowbound chalet in Switzerland, just over the Italian border. They are being hunted by (probably) two groups of adversaries. They have quite a few suspenseful encounters.
This is a complex novel. There are many characters, good and bad, some who are not who they seem to be. There are characters from the first novel and I felt that not enough back ground material about them was included in this one so that I would feel sufficiently caught up, had I not read that first novel.
There are many locations, some of which I had difficulty visualizing. For example, Grace asks her son, “Do you have a plan?” She looks at his notes. “I see you're going to move along the outside of the Doge's Palace, cross the della Carta, then onto the right terrace.” That meant absolutely nothing to me. I have no idea what those buildings are or what they look like. Some adjectives would have helped.
There is a great deal of action, some of it I felt was a bit repetitive, confusing or not necessary. For example, part of the group left a snow bound chalet under attack by way of a steep downhill ski. The down hill scene was quite adventurous and full of suspense. At the bottom, that group was joined by some left in the chalet, the latter having driven down (the crunch of tires). The down hill ski scene provided lots of suspense, but was it necessary if the others could merely drive down?
The plot includes many references to historical people, events, and places. Luther figures prominently, as he apparently had the artifact at one time. Our heroes find clues to the scroll's hiding place from various carvings and paintings in various locations. At the end of this novel, it is very clear it is not the end of the story. A sequel is planned and needed.
All that being said, I really liked Horton's writing. This is a thinking person's novel. Statements are frequently made obliquely. One has to really pay attention to the dialog and references to understand what is being said. There is some really snappy dialog too. Grace is a delightful character. She is an older woman, very intelligent, and a committed Christian. Near the end of the novel (96%), she says, “I'm confused.” She asks her husband how various characters in the novel fit together. Whew. I didn't feel so bad that I was confused sometimes as well.
I am taking part in a blog tour of this book and you can read other reviews here.
After an award-winning detour through journalism and marketing and a graduate degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, NLB Horton returned to writing fiction. She has surveyed Israeli and Jordanian archaeological digs accompanied (twice!) by heavy artillery rounds from Syria and machine gun fire from Lebanon. Calmly tossed a tarantula from her skiff into the Amazon after training with an Incan shaman. Driven uneventfully through Rome. And consumed gallons of afternoon tea across five continents. Her first novel, When Camels Fly, was released in May, 2014.The Brothers' Keepers her second in the Parched series, was released November 17, 2014. The third in the series will release in the fall of 2015.
RidgeRoute Press, 408 pages. Purchase a copy here.
I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through the Litfuse Publicity Group for the purpose of an independent and honest review.