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Bookends: Ancient Mysteries and Modern Questions February 3, 2012

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: Ancient Mysteries and Modern Questions

By Dan Davidson

December 17, 2011

– 776 words  –

The Stonehenge Legacy

By Sam Christer

McArthur & Company

481 pages

$18.95

You can either complain that Dan Brown has a lot to answer for, or thank him for reminding publishers of the wealth of material that can be found in thrillers based on ancient monuments and secret societies. There used to be a lot of these stories, back in the halcyon days of the pulp magazines, and Brown’s success with the Robert Langdon novels (especially The Da Vinci Code, has made sure that there are now lots of them again.

Different authors attempt to give the basic lost secrets formula a twist, according to their interests. In this case, Christer has combined the secret society plot with that of the police procedural, creating something that the cover blurbs do not actually describe with much accuracy.

There are two principle characters in this book. One is Gideon Chase, an archeologist whose estranged father commits suicide in chapter one, leaving Gideon a considerable fortune and an even more considerable mystery. Why did Nathaniel kill himself? What is the secret locked up in the coded journals he finds in the secret room just off the mansion’s bedroom? Why did someone try to burgle the house just as he was arriving, and, apparently having failed to find what he was looking for, try to burn it down?

All good questions.

Detective Inspector Megan Gates has a lot of questions too. She’s been given the task of dealing with the suicide and so she naturally inherits everything else connected to that case. There’s something odd about Gideon and something odder still about the attempted robbery and arson.

What all this could possibly have to do with a local missing person, the apparent kidnapping of the daughter of the American Vice-president and the murder of a scion of the House of Lords just adds to the puzzles piling up on her desk.

We do spend time with other people – the kidnap victim herself, the Henge Master, and another policeman or two – but the main points of view belong to Gideon and Megan, and they don’t consult much.

The two follow different lines of inquiry to come to some of the same conclusions. This is far from being the team-up suggested by the back cover blurbs. Where they complement each other’s efforts it is more by coincidence than coordination.

How this all of the questions connect to the puzzles in Gideon’s life and to Megan’s dysfunctional marriage makes for an interesting story. The present tense narrative tends to enhance the tension. The fact that the villains have both codes names and real names keeps you wondering just who our protagonists can actually trust and how deeply this conspiracy is rooted. Finally, there’s just enough spookiness in Gideon’s life to leave us wondering if the acolytes who worship at Stonehenge might actually be on to something after all.

It’s not a first rate read, in my opinion, but it is interesting. I do admit that it caught my eye primarily because I’ve visited the place and wanted to see how the story would make use of it. It does that part pretty well.

 

Fascinating Canada: a book of questions and answers

By John Robert Colombo

Dundurn Press

245 pages

$19.99

 

John Robert Colombo is the king of Canadian trivia books. This book asks and answers 357 questions that are among those the great collector has been puzzling over for the last fifty years or so.

Some samples:

• Are there honourary Canadian citizens. The short answer is “yes” but the entry is half a page.

• Why does the name of a Canadian girl appear in a Harry Potter book? The answer is as tear jerker.

• Was Sir Henry Baskerville (from THAT book) a Canadian? Well, he was farming in Canada before his uncle’s death brought him back to Scotland to face the Hound.

• Is Santa Claus a Canadian? There’s an interesting answer to this one, including a 2008 decree from the Minister of Citizenship of the day.

• Which is the smallest First Nation? Apparently there are groups even smaller than White River.

• How many Canadians hold dual citizenship? The answer here includes the reason why nearly 700,000 of us fit into this category.

This book is a browser, not a reader. It’s the kind of book that finds its natural home in the bathroom. But be careful. The entries are a bit like peanuts. You can’t read just one, and the book may keep you there longer than you intended.

 

-30-

 

 

 

 

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