Monday, 4 February 2013

Review: The Hunters by Chris Kuzneski


The Hunters: Financed by a billionaire philanthropist, this elite team - an ex-soldier, an historian, a computer whiz, a weapons expert, and a thief - is tasked with finding the world's most legendary treasures.

The mission: Fearing a German victory in WWI, the Romanian government signed a deal with Russia to guarantee the safety of the country's treasures. In 1916, two trains full of gold and the most precious possessions of the Romanian state - paintings, jewellery, and ancient artefacts - were sent to the underground vaults of the Kremlin. But in the turmoil of war, the treasure was scattered - and lost. Almost a century later, the haul is valued at over 3.5 billion dollars. Despite hundreds of attempts to find it, its location has remained a mystery... Until now.

Can the Hunters find the treasure and succeed where all others have failed?


I would imagine that there will be some readers who will not get past the first few lines of the above blurb without screaming "cliché!". However, I personally read those few lines and screamed "I want to read that book!". I've mentioned many times in the past, both on this blog, and before it on my book blog for younger readers, that I love action thrillers that have some kind of quest element to them, whether it be hunting down a lost religious artefact with supposedly mystical powers, or like in this case: the lost treasure of the Romanian government. As such, I have been reading and enjoying Chris Kuzneski's books for a number of years, and I had been looking forward to reading this one ever since I first heard about it.

If you've continued to read on past those opening lines of blurb then I commend you for your obviously excellent taste. Yes, the character line-up that make up the eponymous Hunters may sound a little familiar, but think about it for a minute. If you were a billionaire philanthropist who wanted to build a team that you could send out to hunt down and retrieve long lost treasures in this modern age of ours, then would your team be any different? You would need:

Someone to lead a group made up of very different personalities, from very different backgrounds (i.e. an ex soldier)

Someone who is an expert at carrying out research into ancient relics, wartime situations, political geography (i.e. an historian)

Someone who can assist the historian in his or her research and provide technical back-up using a veritable cornucopia of electronic gadgetry (i.e. a computer whiz)

Someone who can protect your team whilst they are in the field (i.e. your weapons expert)

And finally, someone with the breaking and entering skills that may be required to retrieve the hunted for object as and when you find it (i.e. a thief).

Yes, we've pretty much just described in one way or another most of the members of the Leverage team, and maybe one or two of The A-Team and Charlie's Angels, but if you're after a treasure worth millions then you are hardly going to employ a butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker, are you? And for me, this team of very different, and occasionally conflicting personalities are a big part of what made this book so enjoyable for me.

Naturally, any author delivering a new 'first in series' book needs to introduce his characters in some way, and I loved the way Kuzneski introduced his team and their various skills. He basically has his billionaire hire them to do a rather dangerous job (stealing from a ruthless and bloodthirsty Russian mafia boss), working together as a team with barely any kind of introduction to each other. If they pull the job off, they pass the test, and they are hired for greater things, not that they know this at the time. It goes without saying that said test is passed with flying colours (no, that isn't a spoiler - if they had failed, then the books would have ended at the second chapter), and once they have agreed to sign up for the quest they find themselves heading for Russia, and the first leg of their mission to locate the lost treasure of the Romanian government, supposedly passed to the Russian for safe keeping all the way back in 1916.

Naturally, in these kind of stories (and I have read more than a few), there is usually a bad guy who also wants to get his or her hands on the treasure, and in this case our team of Hunters find themselves coming up against the mysterious Black Robes, a group that will stop at nothing to reach their goal. Throw in the Russian police for good measure, and our team of heroes may struggle to make it through their first quest alive, especially as the motives of their employer are not entirely clear, and there may be a few crosses and double-crosses ready to jump out and bite them at the worst possible moment.

I mentioned above that I have been a reader of Chris Kuzneski's books for some time, but not all of them have been perfect. His Payne and Jones books have great characters, but in one or two the story has been lacking, and in the most recent one I found the dialogue between Payne and Jones to be rather irritating at times. The Hunters does not suffer from a poor plot, and the dialogue is largely excellent, with only a very small number of occasions where I found it a little unnatural. The characters are still very much a strength though, and not just the main team. In Russia, the team find themselves working with an aged railway worker, and every scene he features in is an absolute delight to read, in much the same way that Petr Ulster, a secondary character in the Payne and Jones books, became something of a fan favourite.

The ending of the book left me wanting a lot more. I want to know more about the billionaire Papineau, and his motivations, especially as Kuzneski keeps this very much shrouded in mystery. I want to know more about the backgrounds of the various team members, and how they ended up on Papineau's wish list for his team of Hunters. And I want to know just what the team are going to be hunting for next. The ending of the book will also have fans of the Payne and Jones books grinning from ear to ear, but thete is no way in the world I am going to explain why here. You'll just have to read the book for yourselves (although if you're a Payne and Jones fan I would imagine you don't need a whole of of persuading from me).

My thanks go to the wonderful people at Headline for sending me a copy of The Hunters to review.


Saturday, 5 January 2013

Review: Jack Glass by Adam Roberts


Jack Glass is the murderer. We know this from the start. Yet as this extraordinary novel tells the story of three murders committed by Glass the reader will be surprised to find out that it was Glass who was the killer and how he did it. And by the end of the book our sympathies for the killer are fully engaged.

Riffing on the tropes of crime fiction (the country house murder, the locked room mystery) and imbued with the feel of golden age SF, JACK GLASS is another bravura performance from Roberts. Whatever games he plays with the genre, whatever questions he asks of the reader, Roberts never loses sight of the need to entertain. JACK GLASS has some wonderfully gruesome moments, is built around three gripping HowDunnits and comes with liberal doses of sly humour.


Before I start this review I feel that I should declare that I teach in the same school as Adam's wife. However, this in no way has any influence on my thoughts about Jack Glass. In fact, despite working with his wife for many years, this is, to my shame, the first of Adam's books that I have read. I've never been a particularly avid reader of adult science fiction, but Jack Glass, and the handful of classics of the genre that I read towards the end of 2012, have whet my appetite and I aim to find the time to read more in 2013.

Based on conversations I have had with science fiction aficionados, and some less than extensive research, I have been led to believe that Jack Glass is possibly Adam's most accessible novel to date, especially where lowly science fiction novices like me are concerned. To use a potentially inappropriate musical analogy, this is in no small part due to its mash-up nature, as Jack Glass is a masterful blending of science fiction with a genre I am much more accustomed to reading - the classic whodunit and locked-room mystery. Although perhaps whodunit would be better replaced by howdunit, as explained in the book's introduction:


This narrative has to do with the greatest mind I have known - the celebrated, or infamous, Jack Glass. The one, the only Jack Glass: detective, teacher, protector and murderer, and individual gifted with extraordinary interpretive powers when it comes to murder because he was so well acquainted with murder. A quantity of blood is spilled in this story, I’m sorry to say; and a good many people die; and there is some politics too. There is danger and fear. Accordingly I have told his tale in the form of a murder mystery; or to be more precise (and at all costs we must be precise) three, connected murder mysteries.

“But I intend to play fair with you, reader, right from the start, or I’m no true Watson. So let me tell everything now, at the beginning, before the story gets going.

“One of these mysteries is a prison story. One is a regular whodunit. One is a locked-room mystery. I can’t promise that they’re necessarily presented to you in that order; but it should be easy for you to work out which is which, and to sort them out accordingly. Unless you find that each of them is all three at once, in which case I’m not sure I can help you.

“In each case the murderer is the same individual — of course, Jack Glass himself. How could it be otherwise?”

So, right from the start we know that a) we are going to be reading a trilogy of three interlinked murder-mystery stories and b) the murderer in each of them is the infamous Jack Glass. As readers then, we are challenged to work out the how rather than the why.

The opening story of the triptych, as  mentioned in the introduction, is a prison story and sees seven convicts deposited inside a hollow asteroid, their prison for the duration of their sentence. In a galaxy where space is at a premium, this has become a highly profitable way of detaining convicted felons. Stranded inside the asteroid, with little more than excavating equipment, an air scrubber and light poles, said convicts are left to hollow out the asteroid, and once their sentence is up this is then sold on as real estate. As readers it is down to us to work out which one of the seven prisoners is Jack Glass, and then how the hell he is going to escape from a hollow asteroid, drifting out in space, thousands, if not millions of miles away from the nearest inhabited settlement. To say the eventual solution is a tad bloody would be something of an understatement, but mystery fans will take great delight in it as long as their stomachs aren't too easily upset.

The second 'story' of the three is by far the longest, and is the regular whodunit of the piece. No longer confined to the claustrophobic interior of an asteroid, the author uses this story to build his world, and gradually apprise his readers of the society, people and politics of his 'universe'. As a sci-fi novice, it was this story that I found to be closest to what my understanding of classic science fiction is, with imaginative and  glossary-requiring concepts. However, the murder mystery thread is running through all of this, and yet again we are left to work out where Jack Glass comes into things, and how the murder is committed.

As we enter the third section of the book we know exactly which of the characters is Jack Glass, but this time we are presented with Adam Robert's science fiction take on the classic locked-room mystery, and yet another delightful puzzle for mystery lovers. 

Jack Glass is certainly a book that can be enjoyed by readers who might usually steer clear of science fiction books. Its intricate plotting make it a truly rewarding read for mystery lovers, who like me will find themselves bemused as to how Adam Roberts manages to have us sympathising with, as actually rooting for, his main character, who is nothing short of a mass-murderer. I'm not sure I feel qualified enough to comment on the science fiction/space opera elements of the book, although this reader found the themes of over-population, corporate power and corruption deeply thought provoking and, more importantly for me, easy to follow.

Jack Glass was one of my favourite reads of 2012, as well has possessing one of my favourite book covers of the year as well. My thanks go to the good people at Gollancz for sending me a copy to review. Jack Glass is currently available in hardcover edition, with the paperback scheduled for a May 2013 release.


Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Review: Bloodline by James Rollins (A Sigma Force Novel)


Galilee, 1025. Infiltrating an ancient citadel, a Templar knight uncovers a holy treasure long hidden within the fortress's labyrinth: the Bachal Isu - the staff of Jesus Christ - a priceless icon that holds a mysterious and terrifying power that promises to change humankind for ever.

A millennium later, Somali pirates hijack a yacht off the coast of the Horn of Africa, kidnapping a young pregnant American woman. Commander Gray Pierce is enlisted for a covert rescue mission into the African jungle. The woman is no rich tourist: she's Amanda Gant-Bennett, daughter of the U.S. president.

Suspicious that the kidnapping masks a far more nefarious plot, Gray must confront a shadowy cabal which has been manipulating events throughout history... and now challenges the current presidency.

Halfway around the world, a firebombing at a fertility clinic in South Carolina exposes a conspiracy that goes back centuries... a scheme that lies within our genetic code. With time against them, SIGMA must race to save an innocent unborn baby whose very existence raises questions about the nature of humanity, asking:

Could you live forever?

Would you live forever?


I have loved James Rollins' Sigma Force novels ever since I made the impulse purchase of Map of Bones when I saw it in a Waterstones 3 for 2 offer back some years ago. On finishing it I immediately went out and bought a copy of its predecessor, Sandstorm, and since then I have religiously bought each new release as it has come out in hardback. However, I started slipping behind with the series some time ago due to my blogging commitments, and the last two books in the series, The Doomsday Key and The Devil Colony, have sat unread on my shelves since they were bought. With the eighth book, Bloodline, scheduled for a 2nd August release, I decided back in June that I would treat myself and make sure I was back on track ready for the release of Bloodline, and I having finished The Devil Colony a few weeks ago I have been waiting more than a little impatiently ever since. Imagine my joy this morning when I wandered into my local supermarket to find it was on the shelves a couple of days early, and it being the school summer holidays I had the luxury of being able to read it in one day.

If you love action thrillers then you are probably already a huge fan of the Sigma Force novels. If you haven't yet read them, or like I was are slightly behind in the series, then you may want to stop reading this review now as there may be spoilers of previous books. If you are up-to-date and are really looking forward to reading Bloodline then you are in for a treat - this is possibly the best Sigma Force novel to date. This is a pretty incredible feat - I could list a host of other writers of similar style thrillers whose output over a series is inconsistent but somehow Rollins just keeps on raising that bar and leaves that competition standing.

The Devil Colony ended with a pretty big revelation, with Painter Crowe discovering that the family at the heart of the Guild was that of the President of the USA himself. Whether he is aware of his family's complicity or not we will find out in Bloodline, a book that also delivers answers to a number of guild-related questions that have been accumulating over previous instalments. Rollins also left one of his main characters, Gray Pierce, mourning the murder of his mother, her life taken by a Guild bomb meant for him. Bloodline picks up a short while after the events of The Devil Colony, and hits the ground running from the very start.

Many of the previous Sigma Force novels have focused on the team trying to track down some kind of artefact that must be kept from falling into the wrong hands at all cost. These artefacts have generally had some kind of scientific explanation behind their respective powers, hence the involvement of Sigma (for those of you new to the series, the key members of Sigma tend to be ex-special forces retrained in one or more branches of modern science). Naturally, the wrong hands in question belong to the Guild. However, in Bloodline the quest is something far more human - the kidnapped daughter of the US President, who had fled to the Seychelles to give birth to her child after receiving a mysterious warning from an anonymous source. Sigma Force are tasked with locating and retrieving her before her pirate kidnappers realise that they have more than just a random american holidaymaker in their clutches.

Naturally, this being a Sigma Force novel, there is much more to this than a simple act of piracy, and said pirates are mercenaries working for, you guessed it, the Guild. This time, the shadowy organisation are working to discover the secrets of immortality and the First Daughter's unborn child could be the key. With Sigma hot on the Guild's heels the action moves from Africa to Dubai, whilst other members of the Force are risking their lives back in the US. Rollins uses these various plot threads to keep his readers turning pages as fast as they can as they seek to discover the resolutions to the various cliffs he leaves his players hanging from at the end of a chapter, as the focus then jumps to characters on the other side of the world. I'm glad I had the luxury of a whole day to read this as I'm not sure I would have been able to sleep had I needed to put the book down to go to sleep.

With Monk deciding to hand up his Sigma boots to focus on fatherhood at the end of the last book, Bloodline was the perfect opportunity for Rollins to introduce new characters, and also to bring a couple of recently lesser-used characters into the action. Lisa Cummings and Kat Bryant are taken away from their desk jobs to go out into the field as they try to infiltrate the fertility clinic that treated Amanda Gant, the president's daughter. Their subsequent discoveries are not for the squeamish, and Rollins builds them into a story which leaves us wondering whether her may have decided it is time to retire one of his main characters for good. These suspicions are added to be the introduction of Tucker Wayne, a former army captain, and his military war dog. Both of these characters add a completely new dimension to this Sigma Force story, helping to make the story seem fresher than ever.

This being a James Rollins book, much of the technological and scientific themes that are explored in the story are rooted in fact, which James Rollins happily discusses both at the beginning and end of the story. This is an element I have always loved about his stories, making them far more real than those we get from some other authors. I hate to think how much time James Rollins must spend on researching his books, and where he decides he has enough source material and it is time to start writing. With at least one book being published each year, the man must be some kind of writing machine.

If you are a Rollins fan then you need to read this now - there are more revelations than in any of his previous books, and more twists than you can shake a stick at. I am already looking forward to his next Sigma Force book, although I know I have quite a wait on my hands.

Bloodline is published by Orion in the UK, and is due to be released on 2nd August.






Friday, 8 June 2012

Review: Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch


Peter Grant is learning magic fast. And its just as well - he's already had run ins with the deadly supernatural children of the Thames and a terrifying killer in Soho. Progression in the Police Force is less easy. Especially when you work in a department of two. A department that doesn't even officially exist. A department that if you did describe it to most people would get you laughed at. And then there's his love life. The last person he fell for ended up seriously dead. It wasn't his fault, but still.

Now something horrible is happening in the labyrinth of tunnels that make up the tube system that honeycombs the ancient foundations of London. And delays on the Northern line is the very least of it. Time to call in the Met's Economic and Specialist Crime Unit 9, aka 'The Folly'. Time to call in PC Peter Grant, Britain's Last Wizard.

Ah, the luxury of being on half term holidays when a book like this arrives. These days, whenever I read a book written for the adult market I feel more than a twinge of guilt, especially when I look over at my TBR pile and see all the children's and YA books stacking up. Not in half term though, when I can get through a few more books that I normally would in a week, although I have been looking forward to reading Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch for so long I would probably have dropped everything to read it, even if I had been in the middle of the busiest term in my career.

I think a lot of people, and probably more men than women, hear the phrase 'urban fantasy' and immediately assume that the story will involve vampires/werewolves/mythical creature du jour and huge amounts of romance.  This is not entirely surprising, given the number of urban fantasy books that are churned out with cheesily awful book covers, although thankfully this is not as prevalent in the UK as it is in the US. However, there really are some superb urban fantasy stories and the Ben Aaronovitch's series that started with Rivers of London is one of the very best. It also has the potential for crossover appeal as Mr Aaronovitch is also proving with these books that he is up there with the best of UK crime writers.

I wonder whether Whispers Under Ground might be my favourite book in the series so far. I loved Rivers of London and Moon Over Soho, both of them ranking amongst some of my favourite reads of 2012, but this one was an absolute joy to read. I'm not sure I can really put my finger on exactly why I loved it even more than its predecessors, but I think it might be because of the humour that the author has so skilfully woven into his story. This was evident in the other two books, but the darkness of the plot often overshadowed it. Not so in Whispers Under Ground - the darkness takes more of a back seat and allows the fun that the author obviously had writing the story to really shine through. Last year I managed to get over to an event that Mr Aaronovitch was doing as part of the Lewisham Literary Festival where he came across as a very humorous speaker. This is now more evident in his work that previously - there were many scenes where I felt a smile creeping onto my face, and even a handful of moments where I laughed out loud.

Whispers Under Ground also sees the return of PC Lesley May, who spent much of the previous book living in Brightlingsea with her parents whilst she recuperated from the disfiguring injuries she sustained in Rivers of London. The banter between Lesley and Peter Grant was an element I really enjoyed in that first book, and it is great to have her back and taking a fully active part in the plot, especially given the magical bombshell she dropped on Peter at the end of Moon Over Soho. Lesley is now a fully fledged member of The Folly, and is making great progress with her studies under the tutelage of Nightingale, and the dialogue between her and Peter is as good as ever.

As well as the detailed look at police procedure we have come to expect from the author, brilliant plotting, dialogue to die for and scintillating humour, Ben Aaronovitch also delivers yet another fascinating look at the history of London. As readers we are getting a history lesson without even realising it, another reason why, as something of a Londonphile, I love these books so much - I had no idea that there was a street in London which had a pair of buildings with fake facades. Made to look like the rest of the Georgian townhouses in the terrace, the frontages actually hide part of the underground line that runs though, left open to the air to allow steam to be vented back in the day.

Whether you are a lover of intelligent fantasy in a modern urban setting, British crime writing, or the history of London, this book, and its predecessors, will hold something for you, and will most likely keep you gripped from first page to last. Initially we were promised three books in the series, but given its success I am expecting to be reading more about Peter Grant, Lesley May et al in the future. Ben's wikipedia page lists the next book in the series as being titled Broken Homes, due out in 2013. My thanks go to jon Weir at Gollancz for sending me a copy of Whispers Under Ground to read/review.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Review: Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves by Matthew Reilly


At an abandoned Soviet base in the Arctic, the battle to save the world has begun...

THE SECRET BASE

It is a top-secret base known only as Dragon Island. A long-forgotten relic of the Cold War, it houses a weapon of terrible destructive force, a weapon that has just been re-activated...

A RENEGADE ARMY

When Dragon Island is seized by a brutal terrorist force calling itself the Army of Thieves, the fate of the world hangs in the balance, and there are no crack units close enough to get there in time to stop the Army setting off the weapon.

ONE SMALL TEAM

Except, that is, for a small equipment-testing team up in the Arctic led by a Marine captain named Schofield, call-sign SCARECROW. It's not a strike force; just a handful of Marines and civilians. It's not equipped to attack a fortified island held by a vicious army. But Scarecrow will lead the team in anyway, because someone has to.

THE ULTIMATE HERO IS BACK, FACING THE ULTIMATE ARMY OF VILLAINS


Matthew Reilly books are like Marmite - you either love them or hate them. Those who hate them (and you seem to be in the minority) prefer their literature to be everything that Matt Reilly's books aren't - dull, boring, realistic, yawn-inducing, pretentious... I could go on. Those who love Matt Reilly's books seek escape their their humdrum lives. They want to read about impossible car chases, multiple death-defying escapades, enough gunfights to keep a munitions factory in business for decades, and page after page of non-stop, hi-octane, explosive entertainment. Matthew Reilly's books are the written equivalent of a Michael Bay film, but infinitely better. 

And I love them!

To say they are my guilty pleasure would be inaccurate, as I have never felt guilty about reading one of his books. In fact, I like them so much that I have read some of them multiple times, and my favourites have always been those featuring his seemingly indestructible protagonist, Shane 'Scarecrow' Schofield. It has been eight or nine long years since Matthew Reilly published a book featuring this character, and he has been sorely missed by me and legions of fans around the world. Yes, I enjoyed his Jack West trilogy a lot (see my review of The Five Greatest Warriors here), but they weren't Scarecrow books, and for me this meant they had a little something missing. I think I literally leapt with joy then when I heard that there was another Shane Schofield book scheduled, and leapt even higher when a copy came through my door, sent by the lovely people at Orion. They also very cleverly timed it to arrive at the beginning of half term, so I put aside a day especially for it, and was able to revel in the rare luxury of reading a book by one of my favourite authors in a single sitting.

The book begins with a series of daring escapes and heists by a previously unknown group, calling themselves the Army of Thieves. Very soon the world is being held to ransom by a group which has taken control of a secret Russian weapons facility in the Arctic, supposedly shut down following the end of the Cold war, but now very much up and running. This group claims that it has the means to set the atmosphere alight, with a fire that will destroy most of the world as we know it. Initial attempts by the Russian government to eliminate this threat meet with disaster, and it would appear that nothing or nobody is going to be able to prevent them.

Did I say nothing or nobody? Hmmmm. What if a certain marine just happened to be in the area? But no, surely that would be too much of a coincidence? Hell it is - this is a Matthew Reilly book!!!

Schofield has made a lot of enemies over the course of his adventures, and the French especially have put quite a hefty price on his head. His superiors feel that out of sight, out of mind is the best policy at the moment, and so he is relegated to help out on a mission to test the latest in weapons technology in the harsh Arctic environment. As ever, he is joined by the ever faithful Mother, who would rather take part in a pretty demeaning task with Shane Schofield, than any other kind of mission without him. And so we have:
  • bad guys in the Arctic - check
  • seemingly impossible situation where the fate of the world is in danger - check
  • Shane Schofield in the Arctic - check
  • Mother in the Arctic - check
  • cue mayhem!
Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves is Matthew Reilly at his very best. By now, if you have read any of his books you will know exactly what kind of things to expect and all are present and correct: bloody nasty villains; twists, turns and treachery aplenty; jaw-dropping WTF scenes that any other author would not get away with writing; really nasty torture scenes (Mr R has never shied away from inflicting pain on his main characters); and the best action scenes around (nobody writes action like Reilly). And the fact that in the last Schofield book, Scarecrow, Matt Reilly killed off one of his very popular main characters, you are now constantly fearing for the safety of everyone on the mission as there is no longer any guarantee that all with survive until the final page.

If you love the likes of James Rollins, Scott Mariani and Andy McDermott and you have somehow not yet discovered Matthew Reilly then I cannot recommend his books highly enough. For maximum reading pleasure I would advise you to read the books in order (Ice Station, Area 7, Scarecrow, Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves). If you like action and adventure then I promise you that you won't regret it.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Review: Temple Of The Gods by Andy McDermott (Nina Wilde/Eddie Chase Book 8)


Archaeologist Nina Wilde's life has fallen apart. Her husband, ex-SAS soldier Eddie Chase is on the run, falsely accused of murder, and her only distraction has been investigating the origin of three strange statues stolen from her just before Eddie's disappearance. When Nina discovers they may be relics from the lost civilisation of Atlantis, it's clear that she has to get her head back in the game, and fast.

Eddie, meanwhile, tries to stay ahead of the authorities as he hunts the man responsible for his fugitive status across the globe. A mysterious benefactor offers the information he needs - but the price will put him in direct conflict with his wife.

When Nina learns that a Japanese industrialist has obtained the statues on the black market she immediately heads to Tokyo meet him, unaware that Eddie is already on his way. Their arrival unleashes a chain of events that could have devastating consequences for the world, setting Nina and Eddie on their most dangerous quest ever - with the future of humanity itself at stake...

Back in June 2011 I reviewed Andy McDermott's Empire of Gold, the seventh book in his explosive series featuring main characters Nina Wilde and Eddie Chase. I am a huge fan of what a friend and I have christened 'quest books', and this is one of my favourite series from this genre. Incredibly, the first book in this series, The Hunt for Atlantis, was only released back in 2008, so by my reckoning that is averaging at two books a year. From a lesser author, we might expect inconsistent quality, repetitive plots, characters that become boring over time. However, Andy's books suffer from none of these issues. In my opinion, every one of his books is an excellent, thrilling read, and now with the publication of book eight I can only hope there there is still more to come.

In my review of Empire of Gold I recommended that the books be read in order. This is not essential for most of the books, although for maximum reading enjoyment I still stand by that statement. However, Temple of the Gods really should not be read as a standalone, as it is a direct continuation of Empire of Gold. I remember well the frustration I felt on finishing that book and being left with a massive cliffhanger, something that the author had not done in his previous books. I have therefore been waiting impatiently since June to find out what happened next, with Eddie on the run accused of murder, Nina pretty much believing that he was guilty, and enemies closing on from all directions. I am happy to report that it was well worth waiting for.

Temple of Gods is Andy McDermott at his very best, and if like me you are a fan of the series, but are yet to read this book, then I fully expect you to be now salivating at the prospect of diving into the story. It has everything that we have come to love in Widle/Chase story: exotic locations; ancient history; epic, OTT action scenes; crosses, double crosses and triple crosses; and more twists and turns than an Alpine road. It is the culmination of a story that started way back when Nina Wilde discovered Atlantic in the first book, each book that followed adding another few morsels of detail regarding Nina's link to the ancient Atlanteans, and the mysterious purple stone statues that the pair have come across in their various archaeological adventures.

One criticism my 'quest book' loving friend has about this series is that she gets a little fed up with all the bickering that goes on between Nina and Eddie. I too occasionally found myself in previous instalments wanting to shout at them to stop arguing and just get on with things. If you share this view then you may be glad to hear that the shocking events at the end of the last book, and Eddie's subsequent flight from the authorities, seems to have brought the pair together in a way that none of their previous escapades managed. So much so that the pair have very few arguments this time round. Happy days! (well they would be, if it weren't for the fact that just about everyone they come across is trying to kill them).

With all the loose plot threads from the previous books now all neatly tied off I am left with a worrying feeling that this might be the final Nina Wilde and Eddie Chase. I'm hoping that there is a loose end that I have forgotten about, giving Andy McDermott a reason to write at least one more book (and hopefully many more) featuring his endearing pair of characters. If anybody knows that answer to this and can put me out of my misery please get in touch.

My thanks go to the ever lovely Sam at Headline for sending me a copy of Temple of the Gods to review.

Welcome To The Book Zone's Big Brother

Welcome to the 'grown-up' companion to The Book Zone (For Boys). If you have been to The Book Zone before coming here then you may already know that its primary focus is boy-friendly books for children and young adults.

Of course, my reading diet is not solely made up of books written for teens and kids, and since I established The Book Zone back in 2009 I have reviewed a number of adult books that I felt were suitable for older teens. My concern has always been that these adult books do not really 'fit' with the other books I review over there and so I have decided that it is time to give the adult book reviews a home of their own. And so The Book Zone's Big Brother is born.