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Bookends: Fairy Tales Just might be the Truth in Disguise March 17, 2018

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, D.J. McIntosh, thriller, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: Fairy Tales Just might be the Truth in Disguise

By Dan Davidson

November 29, 2017

– 833 words –

 

The Book of Stolen Tales

Book of Stolen Tales

By D.J. Mcintosh

Kindle edition

$14.99

432 pages

Penguin Canada

$16.00

 

D.J. Mcintosh’s The Book of Stolen Tales is the second volume in what she calls The Mesopotamian Trilogy It owes something in its construction to the works of Dan Brown and James Rollins. The difference is that her protagonist, John Madison, is no specialist. Browns Robert Langdon is a symbologist and Rollins’ characters are from a team of specialists with military as well as academic backgrounds.

Madison, who tells us his own story, is basically flying by the seat of his pants. He’d built a career in dealing in antiquities by piggybacking on the work on his much older and better educated brother. Now that Samuel is dead, killed in that car accident for which John is still under suspicion, he’s had to change careers, dealing more now in old books and taking on commissions for other people.

This book begins, as those in this genre do, with events that took place some time earlier (during the Iraq War, in fact) and which have roots that go back even farther in time.

Madison’s part of the story begins with his arrival in London to bid on a rare 17th century book for a client. He accomplishes his task, but is accosted in his hotel room that night by a man who calls himself Alessio, who seems to have a strange mesmeric power, and the book is stolen from him. Not, however, before he had had a change to open the box which was supposed to contain a number of individually bound chapters, only to find that most of them are missing.

He reports the problem to the auction house, which disclaims any knowledge of the incomplete item.

Wandering the streets in despair and confusion, he encounters the stranger again, and once more falls victim to his power, but them the man falls in to the Thames and appears to drown. The man had claimed to be the author of this 370 year old book, which had been filled with strange text and incredible, but horrible, illustrations. Madison new he would somehow have to track down all the missing parts to get himself off the hook and satisfy his own curiosity.

This leads him to the partner of the man who had hired him, and to some details about their bookshop and their printing business. He learns more about the book, which purports to contain the original versions of may well known fairy tales and legends, versions that predate the renderings by the Grimm brothers, Charles Perrault or Andrew Lang. From the printer he gains the knowledge that the tales are intended to be allegories and perhaps even formulae for telling about real events

Meanwhile – in the United States – a number of men who had been doing some archaeological research in Iraq, have come down with, and are dying from, an extremely virulent disease. Chapter 9 introduces us to this subplot and to the third person narrative through the eyes of Nick Shaheen, and agent of a covert US agency who has been tapped to find out what it was that those men had been exposed to that could have made them so ill.

We spend the next several chapters with Shaheen, whose inquiries eventually lead him to shadow Madison.

Madison tracks the book down to its original (in this century, at least) owner and becomes involved with a woman named Dina, who is apparently being held captive by this man, who feels that he in a legitimate heir to the throne of Italy. Dina, it emerges, has been stealing the chapters of the book and selling them in order to finance her escape from her captor, Mancini.

Shaheen and Madison eventual end up working together, Shaheen providing the more physical skills that Madison lacks, while it is Madison who unlocks the various puzzles that lead them to another of those mysterious underground tombs that are so prevalent in this type of book.

In the tomb there are artefacts which, it seems, contain items that were used to store a very old and very deadly contagion. Some people want them for their own nefarious purposes; Shaheen works for a agency that would like to both control and suppress it. He has other ideas.

There is an ongoing tension between the two men, with neither quite trusting the other, but that works to keep the book interesting.

I felt this second book worked better than the first, The Witch of Babylon. Madison was more focussed in this book and seemed to be less at the mercy of others. He’s less mercenary about his own motives and better able to cope with the situations in which he finds himself. He was a more likeable fellow, enough so that I will move on to the third book before to many months have passed.

 

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Bookends: A quest for ancient artifacts and the secrets of making gold February 8, 2018

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, D.J. McIntosh, Klondike Sun, thriller, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: A quest for ancient artifacts and the secrets of making gold

By Dan Davidson

– 722 words-

Witch of Babylon

 

 

The Witch of Babylon

By D.J. McIntosh

Kindle edition

$9.99

416 pages in Penguin paperback

I get a lot of books in the mail from distributors and publicists who don’t seem to realize that the best I can do is review 50-60 books in the run of a year. Its’ almost annoying when someone sends me book three of a trilogy and I don’t know how the story got to that point. In this case I received the first paperback edition of McIntosh’s Angel of Eden, the final book in her Mesopotamian Trilogy.

I go about 25 pages into it when I realized I really needed to begin at the beginning.

This is where the advantage of e-books comes into play. The two previous books were available as either Kindle or Kobo editions, and at reasonable prices.

Here I will stop to complain about Amazon.ca’s policy of charging ridiculous shipping fees for CDs and DVDs. All of the Yukon started to be considered a remote area a few years ago, and the tiny postage on these light items suddenly got jacked up to the value of the item or more. Fortunately, digital items have no shipping costs.

The Witch of Babylon comes across a bit like a cross between Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon novels and the Indiana Jones movies. John Madison is a dealer in art and ancient artifacts. He is the half brother of Samuel Madison, who was a mover and shaker in the art world, and John has been able to ride on his much older brother’s coattails to develop his own career.

Two prologues (as is often the case with historically crafted thrillers) give us a note on the history of Nineveh and an action–filled segment during the 2003 sack of Baghdad during the disastrous invasion of Iraq. An artifact is purloined – or perhaps protected – it’s hard to tell at this point. Samuel is involved, along with some locals we will meet later.

John was partly raised by a family in Turkey, and the age difference between the brothers was such that Samuel was more like an uncle to him. As we enter the book, Samuel is dead, victim of a car accident which John (and quite a few other people) believes to have been his fault, since he was the driver.

John is pretty much on his uppers. He was also hurt in the accident; his career has taken a nose dive, and he has just lost his job at a local college, thanks to the intervention of a man he had thought was his life-long friend. That man, Clive, is about to die of a drug overdose, leaving John as a suspect in what turns out to be murder, and leaving him a deadly puzzle game which he has to solve in order to prove his innocence, save his own life, and that of his former friend’s wife.

He is aided, and manipulated, in this quest by Tomas, an archaeologist, and Ari, an Iraqi photojournalist, the two who were with Samuel when he found the artifact, which is part of an original tablet version of an Old Testament book.

He is also up against the plotting of a wealthy art expert and collector who wants to get his hands on this ancient writing, which he believes to hold one of greatest of alchemical secrets – the method for turning base metals into gold.

Along the way to solving the puzzles he does begin to wonder if the crash that killed his brother wasn’t really an accident, and just how long people have been meddling with his life.

There is a great deal of action, many deceptions, surprises and plot twists before we get to the end of this story, which seems quite complete in itself, but did leave room for sequels that could make use of some of the same background material. These are The Book of Stolen Tales (2013) and The Angel of Eden (2015).

Unusually, the book concludes with a series of essays on Mesopotamian culture and art, historical timelines, footnote references from numerous pages in the book, a bibliography, and several pages of acknowledgments.

The Witch of Babylon was shortlisted for the UK Crime Writer Association’s Debut Dagger Award and winner of the Canadian Arthur Ellis Award for best unpublished crime novel.

 

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