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The perfect way to usher in the new season.
on October 4, 2010
With THE THIEVES OF DARKNESS, Richard Doetsch returns to the world of Michael St. Pierre, a reformed master thief who still finds a use for his anything-but-dormant skill set. Those who first encountered Doetsch in THE 13th HOUR, last year's impressive stand-alone thriller, will find that his careful plotting and memorable characterization are trademarks of his St. Pierre books as well.
THE THIEVES OF DARKNESS revolves around what are known as the Piri Re'is map, one of antiquity's most interesting and puzzling artifacts. Created early in the 16th century, this map of the world's continents is drawn with an accuracy that would have been seemingly impossible for that era. The heart of the book is that there is another such map, one that has lain hidden for centuries, that reveals a detailed description of a place of horrors, a place to avoid rather than a destination. The hunt for that map begins with Father Simon Bellatori, St. Pierre's friend and mentor, held captive in the notorious Chiron Prison in Akbiquestan, an institution from which the only escape is a painful death. St. Pierre accordingly finds himself in the unique position of having to break into prison in order to rescue Simon. It is the map, and Simon's efforts to obtain it, that puts him and an unexpected colleague into jeopardy to begin with.
St. Pierre, Simon, and the always trusty Paul Busch embark on a race against Phillipe Venue, a ruthless fiend who truly believes that the secret location the map reveals will contain the riches that will return his failing financial empire to its former grandeur. Their search for the map, and for the vile key that accompanies it, results in a fascinating journey to Istanbul with St. Pierre and Venue in a neck-and-neck race of deadly one-upmanship to obtain it. St. Pierre's new love interest, K.C. Ryan, is along for the ride as well, as Venue uses the one person most dear to her as leverage to ensure that the artifacts St. Pierre seeks are delivered directly to Venue and no one else. Venue is aided by the deadly Iblis, a deadly foe who has ties to Ryan's past and who has his own feelings for Ryan. As the story moves from the centuries-old palaces of Turkey to a desolate mountaintop in the Himalayas, St. Pierre finds that his quest brings with it a sacred duty, one that will require he reach into the depths of his soul and confront his own demons, even as he must protect those he loves from dark forces of this world and the spiritual one.
Richard Doetsch has a wonderful ability with respect to picking and choosing the subject matter and locations of each of his novels, and THE THIEVES OF DARKNESS demonstrates this again and again. I will confess that it took me longer to read this book than it ordinarily would have, as I kept breaking off to do refresher research on Piri Re'is, Istanbul, and Aleister Crowley, among other topics. And while Doetsch demonstrates a mastery over his subject matter, his narrative never gets bogged down in minutiae. From its gripping beginning to its extremely enigmatic ending (which may well set up St. Pierre's next appearance), THE THIEVES OF DARKNESS is the perfect way to usher in the new season.
--- Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub