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VINE VOICEon February 3, 2012
If you're looking at this book and expecting a read along the lines of Dan Brown or James Rollins, look elsewhere. While Knox does try to expand on the wildly popular idea of the anthropological thriller, he fails to deliver the compulsive read his fellow authors have managed to bring to the table.

Now I do have to give credit where it's due. Rather than attempt to bring out the same ideas that have already been well trod, Knox manages to find a historical mystery that nobody seems to have written about yet: the Hands of Gargas and the Plain of Jars, two fascinating anthropological and social finds that are woefully underused in the world of fiction. In this aspect, Knox did a good job since these are things that would make for a good anthropological/sociological thriller.

However, where Knox flounders is in his penchant for overstating to the point of tedium. We're given themes, histories, and info dumps, which I admit are unavoidable in any book, but we're browbeaten by these elements until we're rolling our eyes at the occasionally overly dramatic and unnecessary prose. A good example would be how Knox uses the horrific atrocities that the Khmer Rouge made against the people of Cambodia. These elements are stated time and time again, occasionally at the expense of character development. We're told how communism is bad and how horrible the Khmer Rouge was, meanwhile the main characters seem to be little more than a platform for these views. While these viewpoints are valid, they just kept me from getting as invested in the characters as I'd wanted to be. That the plot jumps between different groups of characters doesn't help out either.

Then there's the ending. I won't elaborate, but I'll just say that the message in the end will be controversial to some readers. If it wasn't as subtle as Gallagher smashing a watermelon, Knox could have gotten away with it to where I don't believe anyone would have complained. Sometimes less is more and a briefer revelation with less exclamation would have driven the point in more than pages of exposition. It just diluted everything and made it more overzealous and annoying than thought provoking, making the ending (and the book in general) more of a chore to read than a joy.

Now, it isn't all bad. There are some good scenes in here and the general idea of the book is pretty darn intriguing. If Knox could have gone back and eased up on the overstating of ideas and focused more on the character development, this would have been an amazing read. It could have had at least 40-60 pages shaved off to make a tighter narrative. It's just that the book failed to deliver on its promise and while it might make for an OK library read, Knox still has a long way to go before he gets to Douglass and Preston levels.

1.7 out of 5 stars

(ARC provided by Netgalley)
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on February 2, 2012
The Lost Goddess starts out interestingly enough, with an archaeological discovery in a French cave, followed by a mysterious assault in the dying artificial light deep underground. For me, that opening scene was the highlight of the novel, which is a definite problem - that level of tension and suspense is simply never recaptured anywhere else within the story. A lot of the action seemed to be mere padding, such as the extended tangent of police chases and family squabbles that nearly brought the middle of the book to a halt.

What I had hoped would be a fun archaeological adventure (akin to Matthew Reilly), though, and was even willing to accept as yet another pale imitation of Dan Brown, simply got bogged down by way more religious fanaticism and politics than I cared to wade through.

Where it completely lost my interest was with its heavy-handed approach in equating 'faith' with all that is good and pure in the world, and 'atheism' with all that is evil and cruel. There is actually a line towards the end of the novel where one of the characters calls atheism "a form of dementia . . . a mental illness."

It's a shame, because the Hands of Gargas and the Plain of Jars are definitely unique MacGuffins to explore, and there are hints of competent writing here. If only the the history hadn't been wasted in info-dumps, and then overshadowed by the social/political commentary and religious fanaticism, it could have been an average thriller.

All-in-all, a rather disappointing read, and an author I certainly don't care to revisit.
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on April 19, 2012
This is the first of Tom Knox's books I've read, unfortunately, and after reading the reviews for the Lost Goddess on the cover I was double checking to make sure I was reading the same book as the other reviewers.

Reading it is like walking through a muddy field, with each step coating your shoes to the point where you can't walk anymore. It was like work, and I've gotten more pleasure out of college textbooks. About a third of the way through I was going to chuck it, but it was going so badly that it was like watching a schlocky horror movie, where you want to keep going to see just how bad it gets.

His attempts at dialogue for the Asian characters' pidgin English are stereotypical at best, downright insulting at worst. I kept getting this vision of Jerry Lewis, eyes squinted shut, wearing one of those rice paddy straw hats. It was awful.

His plot, which sounds intriguing, goes off the rails in a hurry. Sorry, but this book was truly a stinker.
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on April 18, 2011
I liked the author's first book about Genesis and the Gobekli finds. It was quite entertaining and well-written. This time however, he goes too far in exploring how religion is a factor of the human mind, neatly placed in the frontal brain, which can be excised at will. A mix of Khmer Rouge, basic rabid anti-communist views and doubtful prehistory. I finished it, certainly, wanting to know to what point he was going to drive and wasn't disappointed. The book fell into the bin the second after the last page. I still have to take a look at his second novel, the Mark of Cain. I do hope it will be on the same level as his first. A disappointed reader...
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VINE VOICEon February 17, 2012
Disclosure: I received a free e-ARC copy of this book from netGalley.com in exchange for an honest review. Thanks for the opportunity to read and review this book!

In France, an archeologist discovers Neolithic skulls in a cave - many of them with holes drilled in their forehead, others with flint arrowheads still stuck in their bones. In Cambodia, in one of the many fields of jars in the Plain of Jars, ancient skulls are re-discovered - all with holes drilled in their foreheads. Now old intellectuals - former Marxists, all - from all over the world are being murdered horrifically - is there some connection between all the skulls? What was it that the Communist regimes in Russia and Cambodia were trying to accomplish - the Russians in the 1920s, the Cambodians in the 1970s?

This is really a mixed bag. On the one hand, the information about Cambodia and the Pol Pot regime is chilling and quite interesting. The descriptions of the locales were well-done and created lush landscapes in my mind. On the other hand, the author has a real problem with meta-exposition. You know what I mean; it usually goes something like this: "OK, fellow [whatever it is they are doing]; while we are in the car traveling to [wherever they are going] to do [whatever they are doing], tell me the plan again." At which point the characters have a discussion about things they obviously already know and have planned, but which needs to be provided to the reader somehow. Similarly, characters will say something like: "OK, I know you know all about [event in history/personage of interest] but I'm going to tell you all about it anyway" and proceeds to provide a didactic and annoying lecture. There were also several weird and quite confusing descriptions given, including one case where a water buffalo was "belligerently munching ferns." *scratches head* How one would belligerently munch ANYTHING, let alone ferns, I have no idea. There was a scene where one of the characters went to a former Soviet province near the Black Sea - it was described as sub-tropical, but cold - with palm trees. My husband, who grew up in the Soviet Union, says that area is warm enough to swim in the sea in January, and sees snow maybe once a year. Obviously this part of the book was not very well-researched; there is mention of the ice cream stands being closed for winter, which is absurd - Russians eat more ice cream in the winter!

To make it even more interesting, there were a series of "umm, what??" moments that were enough to make me make faces like: @@ o.O and other such. For instance, we learn about a Cambodian family who were high-level members of the society - practically royalty - before Pol Pot, and afterward they fled to the US, returning to Cambodia when things calmed down a little. In their house, they display various Hindu and Indian demons. This was very confusing to me. Also, at one point the author mentions something that really blew my mind - picture this: Muslim rappers. O.o right?

However, there is also a great deal of very interesting information; I don't know how much, if any of it, was based upon factual events, but the historical bits are very interesting and I did learn some new things. Also, there were some really interesting ideas presented about guilt, the conscience, and belief - belief in deities, belief in superstitions, belief in ideologies - just belief - that I found fascinating and while I wish these ideas had been more developed, presented earlier in the book, etc., I still enjoyed that a great deal.

I'm not sure why I was so hyper-sensitive to so many things - I think that normally I would not even notice them. But for some reason, they jumped out and bit me when I was reading this book, and for that reason I found it less enthralling than I perhaps normally would have. However, folks who enjoy thrillers, especially ones based upon historical events and archaeological findings, should enjoy this book.
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on October 7, 2015
I had a hard time wading through this one. It's a very interesting premise for a story, but the book is way too long, and actually boring in many places. A good editor would have worked wonders to turn "laboring through the story" into "can't put it down". I'd recommend it with reservations.
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on May 11, 2012
I thought the novel was very well written and above all extremely entertaining. The author invites you along as he tells a tale that is both intriguing yet terrifying. The author blends past and present seamlessly while adding enough plot twists to satisfaction. I also like the fact that Mr Knox never condescends to his reader but rather informs and educates as part of the story. Being a fan of adventure/archaeology i was thrilled with this book and plan on being a repeat reader of it.
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on September 18, 2012
I could not put this book down. Yes, it's violent. Yes, it's disturbing in places. It could be formulaic in places, and I wasn't completely happy with the ending. But it was an amazing read. I really enjoyed reading this and have recommended it to friends and family.
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on August 29, 2013
The development of the story took awhile; trying to explain the rationale behind Pol Pot's murder of millions of Cambodians during the 1970's .... the writer was working too hard to pull two sets of different characters, an archaeologist and journalist together to solve a "mystery" at the end of the story. I was not really sure where the story line was going until the last third of the book.
For me, the plot was a bit too far fetched ..... and this was not as good a read or story as Tom Knox's first book, "The Genesis Secret". I did expect better from the author after reading "The Genesis Secret", so for me, it was "just OK" ....
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on July 31, 2013
Tom Knox may be able to create a twisting plot line, but his misuse of the English language is appalling. My sense is that he sits with a Roget's Thesaurus by his side and looks up new and interesting (at least for him) and for me totally offputting alternatives to perfectly adequate adverbs and adjectives. The effect on this reader was to make me launch this book not into the local library for recirculation, but into the recycling bin, to be turned into paper bags or toilet paper. Knox needs a new editor. Seriously.
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