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The Compass Master Paperback – September 16, 2011

4.8 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Among the highlights in fiction...Helena Soister's Dan Brown-worthy thriller..." Publishers Weekly in PW Select April 2012 quarterly

"...unlike many Da Vinci Code wannabes, the internal logic holds together." Publishers Weekly

From the Author

When I was writing The Compass Master I found there was no need to invent fantastic details or distort history in order to tell a riveting story, not when archeologists, architects, and other scholars have been making remarkable discoveries for years. Here are a few that appear in my novel:
  • One of the secret codes my characters must crack is an alphanumeric one built into the dimensions of a medieval cathedral.
  • The power behind the enemies of Layla Daltry are members of the real-life Council for National  Policy, a powerful, secretive, and notoriously shadowy group of extreme right-wing billionaires, American politicians, and religious leaders.
  • Scholars have fought over the Book of Revelation from the moment it was included in the New Testament. At the time many other "revelations" were in circulation, but the newly established Church suppressed them because most did not predict the end of the world and, even worse, were often visions not of sin and damnation but of divine illumination.
The Compass Master is an adventure story and a thinking person's thriller. I want everyone who reads it to have a great experience.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 530 pages
  • Publisher: Lafayette Books (September 16, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 061546162X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0615461625
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,678,473 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

By Robert L. Read on October 6, 2011
Format: Paperback
I learned of this book after being attracted to the author's blog, "Becoming Layla: [...]. Helena Soister has written publicly about learning to do all the things that her action-adventure hero can do. Layla, the hero of The Compass Master, outruns, out climbs, outfights, and outfoxes men who would bury one of the great enlightening secrets of the world forever. Helena learned to do the same things to make this book a vibrant, realistic thriller, and it worked.

I hope some of you will buy or review this book. As a self-published work, it needs word-of-mouth promotion, which is why I am writing this review. I want to help you decide if this book might be right for you.

The richly imagined and researched plot is more realistic than a Dan Brown novel. The historical accuracy and details add to the fascination of the story. Several times I found myself researching historical facts mentioned in the book, thinking to myself "That can't be true..." and discovering that I had much to learn about the early church, the construction of a medieval cathedral, and a number of other points that would be plot-spoilers to mention here.

Although directly influenced by the action-hero trope of which James Bond and Lara Croft are examples, Layla Daltry is much more human, more humane, and a more personal hero. She is a disappointed scholar turned adventurer, a thief and an antiquarian, a spy and martial artist, a lover and a loner. Unlike most action-adventure heroes, she is not a super-woman cleverly disguised as a human being, but rather a vulnerable, admirable woman pushing herself beyond human limits.

Ms. Soister has entangled her in an unforgettable web of intrigue peopled with vibrant characters.
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Layla Daltry is a rare documents expert and antiquities hunter with a sense of justice that sometimes puts her just the other side of the law. When her mentor dies and has her house ransacked and documents stolen, Layla takes on the quest to finish what her mentor had started, righting a long-time and dangerously-secured wrong. This treasure hunt where the hunter is also being hunted by those who would hide the truth is set against the expertly researched background of the early Christian Church and shines a light on the agenda of those who would keep lost documents hidden.

The flavor of this book is similar to The DiVinci Code, but with all the I's dotted and the T's crossed--the background taken from real historical fact. The characters are likable and the relationships realistic. Even the physical facts are accurate as the author took the care to learn to pick clocks, scale walls and learn some of the martial arts skills Layla uses. I also loved the careful balance the author used in both revering and respecting people of faith, while highlighting dangerous zealots and those who'd use the system to their own ends.
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Format: Paperback
Intelligent, fun, and exciting action novel with compelling characters.

Our heroine is passionate, independent, free spirited Layla. She reminds me of a modern day combination of Robin Hood, Thomas Crown, and Indiana Jones. She has the skills of a cat burglar and loves a physical challenge.

I loved the brilliant, feisty Reverend Mother, who has secrets to protect. The tension and attraction between Layla and her former lover, Zach, adds interesting complications. And Layla's mentor, Professor Maeve Finnegan-Bryson, is a fascinating character who reappears throughout the novel in flashbacks. Layla is determined to finish the work that her mentor began.

The action is almost nonstop beginning in Bosnia with Layla rescuing a thirteenth century book and returning it to its rightful owner. When she hears of her mentor's death, she hurries back to Ireland and the adventure is on. She must travel to Rome and Greece to solve the mystery with an assassin on her tail the entire way.

I loved this book. It's fast paced action with intrigue, puzzle solving, religious controversy that makes you think, and a surprise twist at the end. Layla is the kind of heroine that makes me want to go out and live my own adventure.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
At 523 pages and some 100 chapters, The Compass Master is not a book for the people who gobble up Twilight fan-fiction like it was cotton candy. Fortunately, I'm not one of those people.

So what is The Compass Master? In short, it's a book that chronicles the discovery of extraordinary Biblical artifacts: the alleged final epistle by Paul written by the apostle himself, another by the granddaughter of a female apostle who debunks the Book of Revelation in the New Testament, and one by the monk who hid both of these.

The story is told through differing points-of-view (third person omniscient). The main one is Layla Daltry, a sexy, athletic, and incredibly smart heroine who (when teamed with Zach--an equally sexy male counterpart) is able to unravel a mystery that the Catholic church has kept secret for centuries. Another character is a nun who is in her own right a heroine with church secrets to protect. Finally, there are the bad guys, twin brother assassins in service to an American who want to stop Layla Daltry from fulfilling her quest which could create a firestorm among the academic and religious authorities of the Christian world.

So in analyzing this book, it may be best to start with the question "Who are the Compass Masters?" They were men who called their drawing compasses "diviners" because they believed in sacred mysteries which they could divine through mathematics. In other words, they attempted to explain mysteries through secret codes that they then built into actual structures.

I tend to think that the title "The Compass Master" is a nod to Zach who is essentially one of these "Compass Masters" if not actually a part of that society because he figures so much out by using math.
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