Review of ‘The Mozart Conspiracy’ by Scott Mariani

Mariani Mozart Small RevHaving finished Scott Mariani’s first novel and moved straight onto this I was left wondering what would happen to Roberta Ryder. The answer? Nothing. Nothing whatsoever. In fact, it’s as though the first Ben Hope book never happened as there’s no reference to it whatsoever in this sequel. Was Ben’s foray into alchemy all a puff of smoke, a dream? Nevertheless, the sequel shows improvement, the plot fairly similar to the first, with our tortured military “person finder” this time getting up close and personal with ex-flame and Welsh operatic star Leigh Llewellyn. Given Mr Mariana advocates Catherine Zeta-Jones play the part in any movie this must be a bit of a blow to Katherine Jenkins.
We find out a lot more about Ben in this: of his history as a drop-out Oxford undergraduate theologian; of his success in SAS22; of some of his comrades as a youth in the military – one of which is Leigh’s brother, Oliver, who gets killed in the prologue whilst running from a chateau in Austria having witness a brutal ritualistic killing. His subsequent icy grave means Ben is called in to investigate this “suicide” which is linked to a cryptic letter sent by Mozart just before his death in 1788.
The usual car chases, shoot outs, visits to old and slightly mad men, will-they-won’t-they love concern, insane old-Europe megalomaniac, and Freemasonry-is-the-explanation-behind-it-all pop up, much as it did in the first novel. Mariani sticks to a formula of having a local cop (Luc Simon in the first novel, Kinski in this one) helping out in sidekick fashion. He also introduces an old-SAS enemy of Ben’s – the psychotic Glass (who takes over Bozza’s role from the last novel). A man who just won’t die no matter how many helicopter explosions he’s in. I read along with a niggling feeling I’d read something similar before, then it struck me – Andy McDermott has the same set up with Eddie Chase in his last two novels – an ex-military guy who’s the protagonist#s worst enemy. Of course, I have to nod to Mariani here, as this novel was written before McDermott’s, but the similarity is uncomfortably close.
And that’s about it really – apart from the surprising ending. There’s a harshness that’s quite good. It’s not a case of Ben Hope tidily wins at the end, he suffers as much as everyone else which has the, no doubt, desired result of humanising our hero, making him a little more real.
Scott Mariani and Andy McDermott are basically writing the same formula, to the same standard. It would not surprise me one day to find one was a pseudonym for the other. What is also identical about these authors is that their storytelling in this genre is good. Good enough to look out for, good enough to read their books in a single afternoon on a plane. Worth the purchase price, methinks. On to the third…keep it going Mr Mariani.

Categories: Book Reviews, Scott Mariani

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