Mariani’s ripping ninth instalment for ex-SAS man “Don’t-You-Call-Me-‘Major'” Ben Hope has the return of an old flame from his opening novel – The Alchemist’s Secret. The time Roberta Ryder pops back up as the friend of one Claudine Pommier who winds up dead in the opening pages…conveniently in Paris which is good for Ben given his secret hideaway is there. Her arrival is just in time for Ben who is two days out from marrying Brooke and in the middle of taking his theology exams to become the priest he can never be. Luckily he’s saved from matrimonial bliss by a shoot-up in a park orchestrated by the shadowy `Director’. Which is a blessing given, as readers, we’re likely to be bored with Ben sermonising and much more comfortable with him chucking assassins in cement or shooting them with supporting scenes of total carnage.
The plot for this one centres around Tesla and “the principle of resonance, the idea that tiny forces, precisely enough timed and placed, can accumulate to create massive energies.”. It means the adventures moves from Paris to Jakkwik to Indonesia. Plane chases, tsunamis, Paris Metro car chases, explosions, fights…all trail in the teeming wake of Ben’s action. The archetypal baddie sidekick is one Lloyd McGrath…superb in all things except killing Ben. It’s probably fitting he meets a cutting end. The usual cop assistant is played by one Jack Quigley with cameos by Boonzie and Jeff at the shipping denouement.
I liked this one, though it sits somewhere in the middle of all the Ben Hope novels. The only part of the story that jars is Mariani’s insistence on having Hope act like an ass with his fiancé. It would be logical for him to sit her down and explain what is going on and why he has to leave in the opening chapter; instead, he remains stupidly silent and runs off with an ex-girlfriend – a clear scenario for misunderstanding. It’s a bit weak because (admittedly in a novel premised on non-reality) it is the one part we like to be realistic. Still, it gets us back to the core of Ben’s character which is what Brooke observes: “Risk, danger. You draw it to you like a magnet; you thrive on it. Can’t you see? You love it, deep down. More than you could ever love me.”
I thought I’d put them in order of favourite reads because…well, why not, eh? So here goes (from best to…not best):
- The Lost Relic (Ben Hope 6)
- The Mozart Conspiracy (Ben Hope 2)
- The Alchemist’s Secret (Ben Hope 1)
- The Nemesis Program (Ben Hope 9)
- The Heretic’s Treasure (Ben Hope 4)
- The Armada Legacy (Ben Hope 8)
- The Doomsday Prophecy (Ben Hope 3)
- The Shadow Project (Ben Hope 5)
- The Sacred Sword (Ben Hope 7)
Categories: Scott Mariani