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on August 26, 2013
This is pretty good; in fact I'd put it alongside Andy McDermott and Steve Berry. All three follow the lead character safety net of a stoical, military trained loner with a sense of failure in their emotional past, one that can only be put right by saving others. Cliched, but it works. In this case we have one Ben Hope, probably from the same fictional regiment as Cotton Malone and Eddie Chase. In this case - whereas Eddie is given over to exuberant cursing and cheesy one-liners as he gallivants around after Nina Wilde and Cotton is a bit more intellectual with his Nordic bookshop and CIA help, Ms Stephanie Nelle - Ben is a loner with a drink problem, who is capable of killing with a Browning 9mm in a way not seen since...oh, I don't know... the last brilliant sniper in a literary context.
The only problem for the author is to find something to write about that is new compared to the rest of the airport novels in this genre. The topics are fading fast. He's forced to encroach on Dan Brown, forced to draw on "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail" by centering his raven on the now infamous "Rennes Le Chateau". It is a novel about the long dead Cathars, a novel about alchemy and eternal life, a novel about dastardly, corrupted Vatican archbishops, a novel with a psychotic torturer, a novel that, inevitably, needs to reference Nazism in order to explain why things have gone missing...yet for all these common themes in these types of novels at least Mr Mariani has the humility to acknowledge that:
"it was all too easy to project subjective meanings, beliefs or wishful thinking onto a centuries-old stone carving whose creator was no longer around to say otherwise...too many people were desperate for alternative versions of history...whole subcultures grew up around these myths, rewriting the past like a movie script."
Indeed, Mr Mariani. Which is precisely what you go on to do.
With this tacit admission of conspiratorial collaboration, I actually felt released from the usual formula of these novels and settled down to enjoy it. And...enjoy this, I did. The plot hums along nicely with its car chases, ancient parchments, rich evil maniacs, motley crew of inept henchmen whose sole purpose is to conveniently die in massive explosions and never once shoot the main character (actually, this is not quite true. Ben Hope does get winged at one point which is slightly refreshing); its got the usual intellectual (one Roberta Ryder in this case) and the inevitable "will they, won't they" love suggestion.
There was one contentious point in the novel which was a trifle blunt:
"to subscribe to the Catholic faith and its legacy was, tacitly or otherwise, to espouse centuries of systematic and unrestrained mass murder, war, oppression, torture and corruption."
I see. Tell us what you really think...
For a first novel, you can see how the author has stuck rigidly to a formula that is successful and he's done it tidily which isn't bad. Given novel 8 is now out I hope (excuse the pun) he's moved on to better things. So much so I've Kindled the next two because it's all rather entertaining...I am intrigued to see how he gets rid of Roberta in the next novels because each installment always needs a new love interest..does it not?
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on June 13, 2012
I have read others in this series that were far better written. This was a mess, and the ending was just awful. The pacing was rushed to the point of folly. The characters were not fleshed out in any meaningful way because they were not around long enough to be of importance to the plot, at least the good guys. The bad guys were bad enough for the storyline but even their motivation was entirely glossed over... terrorist, must want to blow something up... greedy academician, spies looking for revenge. Not one of the characters who should have had superior skills and training seemed to be able to exercise them in pursuit of their own survival. The hero, Ben, was so thoroughly proficient on one page that he could single-handedly take out a trio of baddies, and so clueless on anothers that he kept putting himself and others in mortal peril. Just a bad read that had a decent premise that could have benefited from a good rewrite and a decent editor. Opportunity missed.
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on October 25, 2015
If you are a fan of Dan Brown books then you definitely will like this book! I couldn't put the book down I was so excited to know what was going to happen next. The creativity behind this book is just amazing, how all the puzzle pieces come together. The ONLY reason why it's not 5 star is because sometimes the writing isn't the best. Every now and then I'd feel short changed by a particular event, like it was so detailed until the last moment and then it was just over. Or there were times when the writing was just a little choppy... Not to deter anyone from reading this book, these moments are maybe 5% of the whole book. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a good mystery and thrilled book!!
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on November 5, 2015
The Alchemist's Secret could be an Indiana Jones story starring Ben Hope, a one man S.W.A.T. team , Navy Seal, and finder of lost persons. He is not a detective but he detects. And he travels; no country is foreign to him, no means of transportation avoided. Entertaining book. Maybe even a little educational!
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on November 23, 2012
We should not compare all possible thrillers with a historical background to the books of Dan Brown. Comparing their authors with Brown makes him the ultimate thriller writer and sees all the others as runners-up. That is not fair at all. And long before Dan Brown there were authors who created excellent and suspenseful novels of the same genre. Mariani is at least as good as Brown. But you have to get used to the main character Ben Hope. Unlike most other protagonists in such thrillers he is a highly disturbed person, a functioning alcoholic, who, nevertheless, does a splendid job in his most dangerous profession. What you have to get used to, too, is the excessive trail of gore that follows him in this story. But this is not too unusual in modern writing and even attractive to most readers. Very positive is that the author thoroughly keeps his plot together. His historical research is remarkable and not to be found in all his colleagues` stories. The setting - mainly in Southern France - is convincing in the description of places as well as the various aspects of the atmosphere Mariani evokes in his novel. I will not hold it against Mariani that some of the situations in the book are a bit beyond a reasonable realism. It is fiction after all. A book of breath taking suspense, a page turner, that makes you buy the next novel of the series at once.
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on January 2, 2015
First time I have read Scott Mariani. Enjoyed immensely! If you like JF Penn you will love this book ! Central character is ex military special forces and the book has a lot of historical religious history blended in...loved it ...just purchased number two in the series
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on February 13, 2013
As it was free, I downloaded this Kindle edition I have read a couple of Scott Mariani's books and found him to be quite an exciting story-weaver.
It only took a couple of pages and I was gripped I actually could not stop reading saying to myself just one more chapter and before I knew it I had read half of the book.
The background to the story is enthralling and is largely created on some historical facts but with a decent measure of whodunit and conspiracy.
Not wanting to add any spoilers to this little essay I really do have to tell you about the main character; Ben Hope, an ex-SAS Major, I found him to be a very agreeable character and the assortment of characters he bumps into in this well woven story range from out of the ordinary to mercilessly sadistic.
I also enjoyed the way his adventure took him through several countries.
To conclude; the first of Ben Hope's adventures was and is a rollicking good read, certainly a superb page-turner, even if on the Kindle, and if you're searching for a fast-paced, full on action whodunit then look no further this is it.
Yes, some of it was anticipated and the stuff of make-believe, but then again if you read adventure fiction for real enjoyment and not just for literary education you have to enjoy this book.
I look forward to reading many more of Ben's adventures.
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on July 24, 2013
#1 in the Ben Hope series (of 8 so far). An excellent story that unveils a great deal about the horrors committed by the Papacy on the heretical Cathars of southern France.
Well researched but a couple of quibbles.P.139 "What is it?(referring to an ancient scroll)...It is The Secret of Everlasting Life.Chinese,second century. It is priceless."
Ben has just read a passage from it, but an original would have been in Chinese pictograms.
P.427 "There was enough gold in the church to make its finder the richest man in the world."
Not quite. The likes of Carlos Slim,Bill Gates or Warren Buffet could buy over 40 million ounces of the stuff.
Recommended reading.
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on November 30, 2012
I have read a few of Ben Hope stories and have enjoyed them. His backround story is interesting and I seem to feel at this stage he has seem and gone through enough but i hope Scott Mariani will write more of them.
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on November 19, 2015
I do not know how this author slid under my radar for so long. But, I've rectified that! :) Bought a six book collection and will savor each book! Absolutely loved this book! The author takes you on a journey to find literally the "Alchemist's Secret". As he and a young female scientist race around Europe trying to stay one step ahead of a secret cult who have been seeking the secret for centuries.. and now know.. that someone pure of heart.. who seeks the treasure for an altruistic reason.. will in all likelihood.. find it! Superbly well written! I highly recommend this author to anyone who loves James Rollins or Jeremy Robinson novels!
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