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VINE VOICEon December 2, 2009
When cataloging rare artifacts for the Hopkins Museum of Near Eastern Art, photographer Edie Miller witnesses a murder of the chief curator. Just as she bends down to check on some loose cable wires the murderer walks in and shoots the curator with no questions asked and steals an ancient Hebrew relic. Saved by her convenient hiding place Edie just makes it out of the museum alive where she sees the killer meet up with a D.C. policeman.

Fearing for her life she refuses to turn to the police because of what she saw. Instead she turns to the historian, Caedmon Aisquith who the curator was about to send Edie's pictures to.

Together with Caedmon they realize who the killers are working for and what they are after... The Ark of the Covenant. But if Edie and Caedmon can find it first they'll stop the killers from seeing their plans through to the deadly end.

Reading the endorsements on the cover of this book had me really looking forward to Ark of Fire. On the front cover is a blurb by Steve Berry one of my favorite action thriller authors and a blurb on the back cover from Karen Dionne describes the book as "Part Dan Brown, part Indiana Jones and part James Bond..." With the two things I was expecting a lot more from Ark of Fire.

It was a good story but a little too over the top. I can't exactly explain some of the major aspects that bothered me without giving any spoilers away but a couple of small things that made me roll my eyes where just how many times Caedmon and Edie were saved by the killers being out of bullets or their gun jamming and how many times they escaped death and other horrific acts just in the nick of time. Not to mention the whole escaping from Washington D.C. to Europe. I found it hard to believe it was really that easy to flee the country with only $3,000 and a conveniently remembered passport with a killer breathing down her neck.

With those vents out of the way the storyline was pretty good and there was obviously a lot of action. I would recommend this one as loaner or library read for anyone who loves a good suspense thriller.
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VINE VOICEon January 21, 2010
ARK OF FIRE is yet another thriller that rigidly follows Dan Brown's DA VINCI CODE formula. While this book has some good points, the negatives outweigh the positives.

This novel deals with a male-female duo who are racing against time to find the Ark of the Lost Covenant. Our heroes must hustle to find the Ark's hiding place before a right-wing fundamnentalist Christian extremist, who wants to use the Ark to hasten the coming of Armaggedeon.

On the plus side, ARK OF FIRE has a lightning fast plot, some decently written action scenes, and a lot of interesting religious history. If you like the work of Dan Brown or Michael Crichton, this book might engage you at the intellectual level. ARK OF FIRE contains a lot of fascinating historical trivia, such as a possible link between the ancient Jewish and Egyptian religions.

On the minus side, Pavlov's characters are two-dimensional and exaggerated. Much of their dialogue sounds forced and even silly. Particularly unconvincing is the romantic banter between the two main characters, which often made me roll my eyes. A lot of their exchanges are supposed to be funny, but instead come across as sophomoric.

The over-the-top plot of ARK OF FIRE is also quite predictable, and contains no real surprises. It's mostly one long chase scene, as our heroes race from one life-or-death situation after another. I've read this type of story more times than I can count, and this novel adds nothing fresh to the well-worn formula.

In short, ARK OF FIRE is an okay read, but there are much better written novels in the genre, such as Steve Berry's work, or THE SACRED BONES by Michael Byrnes.
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on January 4, 2010
I really love good political thrillers that are based on events or artifacts from the distant past (ala Greg Loomis and Clive Cussler), or science (ala Michael Crichton and James Rollins). I bought this book because it looked to be just right up my ally, and could not wait to sit down and start reading it.

I made it through 24 pages.

The first rule of fiction writing is that you have to get your readers to suspend their disbelief. You do that by including enough verifiable facts along with your story line that will help to suck your readers in--while avoiding glaring factual mistakes and anachronisms. You also have to avoid preaching. If you have a message it better be subtle, if at all.

Unfortunately MS. Palov broke both rules within the first 24 pages.

Right off the bat I had trouble with the "Hopkins" museum of Near Eastern Art in D.C., because there is no such thing, though Hopkins University in Baltimore might have such a museum. Then I had trouble with a "breastplate" being only 4 inches by 6 inches. Even a Hobbit would have trouble getting into a breastplate of that size. Had she called it a medallion or a portion of a breast plate it would have gone down easier. But then came the modern square Hebrew characters on an artifact that, according to her story, was buried nearly a thousand years before those square Hebrew characters were used. A little research into ancient Semitic scripts would have clued her as to which alphabet was in use at the time her supposed artifact was (actually even a good Hebrew-English dictionary would have told her that).

However, I was willing to forgive her all of that since she is a first time writer, and after all, this is a thriller, a genre where fans are generally forgiving of illogicalities. But then came the preaching. It sounded like Janet Napolitano ("the only real terrorists we have to worry about are American troops returning from Iraq") married to Margaret Atwood (gotta watch out for those evil Bible-reading Christians).

No matter whether one is an agnostic, as I am, or a Hindu, or what, and no matter whether one was for the Iraq war or not, I found this book to be a premeditated smear of our troops who have put their lives on the line for a very thankless job.

Also, the bad guys were so over-done in the "Christians are such evil creatures" theme that they were nothing more than card board cut outs from an Atwood fantasy cartoon.

So, that's where I stopped. Usually I donate unwanted, or no longer needed, books to charity. But this one will have to go in to the fireplace.
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on December 30, 2009
Ark of Fire is a thriller in the tradition of the DaVinci Code, with the heroes on the trail of a biblical treasure. When photographer Edie Miller is hired to photograph an artifact, and witnesses the murder of the researcher who hired her, and the theft of the artifact, she becomes a target herself. She seeks help from Caedmon Asquith, a former MI5 agent turned novelist, and the person to whom the photographs were to have been sent, for help. Caedmon quickly determines that the stolen artifact is the breastplate that allowed Hebrew priests to safely manipulate the power of the Ark of the Covenant, and the quest begins, with the bad guys hot on their trail.

The plot proceeds in a pattern most readily indentified with the Robert Langdon books: A murder and a single clue sets our wise academic, along with a female companion, off on a perilous quest. There's a meeting with a former mentor, clues hidden in the arts, visits to sites of historical interest, powerful enemies with a religious/political agenda, and the final showdown. Despite the use of these common tropes, however, Palov has crafted an engaging first novel. Caedmon is an interesting character with spectres looming in his past. Palov does a good job of unreeling some of the important details of the bad guys' plot and of the characters' lives at a measured pace. The locales are interesting, though I would have enjoyed more descriptive details. The resolution is also fitting and nicely done.

A few details did detract from my enjoyment of the book. The first 180 or so pages are very slow. There's action and narrow escapes, and plenty of talking, but we don't get to the first clue until that point. Narrow, sometimes providential, escapes for our main characters in the first one-third of the book are not suspenseful. We know the hero or heroes will be around until the end, and thus are not in fear for their safety. Once Caedmon and Edie find the first clue, however, the story moves along nicely.

Another negative is the way some of the escapes are handled. I can deal with Edie escaping the murder at the outset through dumb luck, but the dumb luck goes too far: Two guys who are about to shoot people and dump them in the woods suddenly decide they can't spare the few seconds it will take to do the job, because one of them has the sudden urge for a bowel movement (luckily, he keeps wipes in the car- seriously), and his partner decides this will be a good time for a smoke, so both guards leave the prisoners unattended. There's also the tried-and-true "hammer falling on an empty cylinder", and of course all the villains are terrible shots. In fairness, it's hard to find a cliche-free thriller. Readers in this genre tend to be forgiving of such things.

Overall, I would rate Ark of Fire as a pretty good book. I liked it enough that I will give the sequel a try. There's no reason to believe Palov won't improve with each novel. If you liked DaVinci Code, you'll enjoy Ark of Fire.
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on February 18, 2014
High adventure, exciting, a page turner (or the Kindle equivalent thereof). The plot is well made with just a tiny bit of suspension on the reader's part. Places are described to the extent the reader really is under a desk in the museum, really is alone relaxing in a tub in the hotel room when suddenly there is the noise, or walking through the streets and gates of an English university. The characters? I would like Edie and Caedmon to drop by for a cup of coffee (or tea) and a little chat after they have saved the world. There is enough sexual tension between the covers (I had to say that. Sorry.) that when they actually get under the real covers the reader is sweating a little, and absolutely demanding a sequel long before story ends. These two have to stay together.
When I was 11 or so my grandmother Chloe took me to the Saturday matinee movies. Before each feature there was a serial short filled with villains and heroes, beautiful women who tended to trip a lot, and a sequence of events that always led to the hero and the heroine running off a cliff, being blown up in a horrible explosion, or simply tied to a long log and fed into the buzz saw. There was no escape. But the following Saturday, there they were again, suddenly freed and continuing to fight for the right.
This Chloe (the "C" in C.M.) has taken me back to those Saturdays. And I am just as entertained now as I was then 50 years ago.
Buy it. Enjoy.
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on April 29, 2015
In the style of Dan Brown, Palov takes the reader on a grand adventure, first searching for the Ark of the Covenant, then trying to keep a fanatic from using it to start a Great Holy War.

After witnessing a murder, Edie Miller tracks down Caedmon Aisquith, scholar and former MI5 agent and a former colleague of the murdered man, to tell him about the artifact that had been the motive for the murder. Before they can figure out what to do, they find themselves on the run, targets of a fanatic and his army, determined to silence anyone who would stand in the way of their plans. From Washington, D.C. to England to Malta, Caedmon and Edie must scramble to stay one step ahead of this army and keep them from using the power of the Ark to trigger a holy war between the Christians, Muslims, and Jews.

Caedmon comes across as more than a little pretentious in the beginning, but after a while, that personality trait began to grow on me. Like all good champions, he has flaws, but unlike vices, his flaws have molded him into the resourceful, intelligent man that Edie can't help finding herself falling for. I didn't care for the timing of the reveal of her little family secret--it really could have been handled at a different time and place--and the end result was a little predictable, but overall, I enjoyed this story and look forward to reading the next in the series.
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on March 11, 2015
I love novels about the Knights Templar. So I am already familiar with many of the theories and background of the Knights. This author did an excellent job of incorporating fact and theory with fiction to create an interesting story. The main characters are interesting and make the story flow. I am already reading the second novel.
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on May 5, 2010
Ark of Firethe cover of this book caught my eye so i was intrigued to read the get caught right from the start in following the clues to the end discovery, I love books that combined real facts of history with a fictional story.there is a touch of the templar tales, another side of Moses and the Ark,religious beliefs vs the Black Plague. of course there is the required love interest featuring a good looking Scotish redhaired ex James Bond figure with the arty photogragher American female.the story keeps you turning the pages to the end
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on August 31, 2011
Definitely not another Indy Jones type adventure, it follows the main characters search for the Ark of the Covenant after one of the main characters witnesses a murder to obtain an artifact that is linked to the Ark.
They travel across the world and the story has a surprising ending.
Fast paced and full of Ark lore, pick it up for a fast paced read
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on August 9, 2015
Aside from minor errors in Biblical facts (it was Isaac that Abraham was to sacrifice on Mt. Moriah not Ishmael) this is a roller-coaster ride of a thriller! Anyone who enjoyed the "Sanctus" Trilogy by Simon Toyne will revel in the conspiracy theories found here. A fanatical religious madman sees himself as the one called by God to bring Ezekiel's prophecy of the End Times to fulfillment. All that stands in his way are two people -- a determined woman and a man who is a former MI-5 operative with all the instincts that come with that. The chase leads from Washington, D.C. to Britain to Malta. The characters are well-developed and I'm glad to see there are more books in the series!
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