Review of ‘The Heretic’s Treasure’ by Scott Mariani

mYCjyFB_1sI59AHh11NbtYgGiven that stories about Akhenatan are a solid “go-to-plot” for authors writing this kind of airport novel, Mariani manages to fool us as we gaze at the shelves by giving our second-favourite Pharaoh a pseudonym – “The Heretic”.
Very cunning.
Anyway, Ben Hope is back, Mariani’s ditched the whole “theology student” alter-ego, and luckily for the reader our reluctant killing machine is calmly accepting that: “He’d been forced to kill. Every time he’d done it, it sickened him so badly he’d sworn it would be the last – but it never was. What tormented him most of all was that he was so good at it.” Tormenting for Ben maybe, but not for reader. Without it, these books would be over pretty fast and not in the slightest bit entertaining.
This fourth outing is much better than the third, as good as the second. There are more twists in it, ones that aren’t so blindingly obvious to those now more familiar with Ben. This time Mariani chooses to have several characters portrayed as the opposite of what they really are. There’s a developing theme of “Bond Girls” coming through – in this case Kerry/Kim, Zara, and Brooke. I’ve got to say, an amorous attachment to Ben Hope is usually a fatal one. Were I female, I’d steer well clear of this blond hunk.
The plot will be fairly well known to those who have indulged in these novels featuring ancient Egyptian treasure – David Gibbins “Pharaoh” is hot off the press as I write this and a fair few more abound – Paul Sussman immediately leaps to mind plus the ever present Andy McDermott or Mathew Reilly. Basically, a foppish, out-of-his-depth Morgan Paxton has got himself murdered in Cairo. A man who just so happened to discover a series of clues that might just lead him to the famous hidden treasure of pre-Atenism religious iconography. Trouble is, there’s always a terrorist around to spot the glint of gold in a dried up well whilst he’s shooting up a hapless sidekick. In this case, Mariani’s psycho character is one Kamal. Of course, there’s also the megalomaniac (no name here as it would be a serous spoiler) and we have a a “fence” by the name of Pierre Chantel.
What follows is Ben’s trips between his new French home of Le Val, Cairo, a stunning yacht, Scotland, and the Sudan in a seven day race to find the treasure, save the girl…oh, and save the world. There’s plenty of action in seedy apartments, trains, wadi, a Laird’s castle, and a palatial residence. The body count builds in a way that shows signs of edging towards Mathew Reilly kind of totals, but whilst Ben Hope isn’t quite the Scarecrow he’s pretty nifty with a fair few weapons.
As you can probably guess, I like these books. Four down, at least four more to go. Reading them one after another is giving me a real-time view on Mariani’s style. Like a favourite crossword, the clues tend to appear quickly pointing at a strong formula. It’s all a bit like Clive Cussler – if you’re onto a winner, then why change it? The author is researching his topics enough to sound plausible (he always inserts a few pages of historical information) and, on occasion he provides a snippet of information that is genuinely interesting. For example he tells us: “small vials of geranium and lavender oils to deter mosquitoes and other insects – an old army trick Ben had learned.” I Googled it, apparently true. Who knew? Not this reviewer. As you can see I hail from Thailand so that’s a very useful bit of information for which I must thank Mr Mariani.
These are good. On to the fifth adventure…

Categories: Book Reviews, Scott Mariani

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