Kill All the Judges (Arthur Beauchamp #3), by William Deverell

Eight stars

William Deverell brings Arthur Beauchamp back for a third novel in the series. Putting a new spin on more Canadian legal drama, Deverell keeps the reader hooked into this whodunit until after the final gavel resonates in the courtroom. Again happy with his retirement (and going so far as to pledge to ‘retire from unretiring’), Arthur Beauchamp is happy to enjoy life on Garibaldi Island. However, Margaret has her eyes set on a new prize, the nomination for the Green Party in the upcoming federal by-election. Working diligently to woo potential party members, Margaret is happy to shuffle her opinionated legal scholar of a husband off to the other side of the island. Beauchamp, on the other hand, wants away from anything legal or political, though does agree to tend to some minor matters when legal proceedings reach the recreation centre one sunny afternoon. While there, Beauchamp is pestered by Cudworth Brown, island poet and somewhat of a smarmy man who shared a tree perch with Margaret a few years before to protest some environmental issues. It would appear that Brown is being accused of tossing a judge off his own balcony and leaving him for dead, before driving off and passing out behind the wheel. This is but the latest in a series of judicial deaths, none of which has been adequately explained. To make matters worse, Brown’s current counsel, Brian Pomeroy, has been slow to build his case in the real world, while penning his own quasi-fictional novel about the entire event. When Pomeroy succumbs to a life of cocaine-induced delusions, Beauchamp reluctantly agrees to take the case, though the deck seems stacked against him, with a judge who is strongly pro-Crown and a second chair, Wentworth Chance, whose legal experience has been notably as a researcher and life-long fan of Arthur R. Beauchamp, Q.C. With a Crown attorney happy to defer to Beauchamp, the case progresses, though the salacious one-nighter between Brown and the victim’s wife is denied by no one, only fuelling the motive to kill this less than pleasant judge. Can Beauchamp find an out and point the finger before the jury brings back a verdict? While he worries about this, Beauchamp must also wonder if Margaret will pave the way for her own successes and end up in Ottawa representing the constituency. Deverell spins a wonderfully complex tale and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat until the final page, even then wondering what has just happened. Brilliantly executed for those who love legal thrillers.
Deverell continues to impress with this series and shows the complexities that can befall a well-crafted legal thriller, given the time investment. Arthur Beauchamp remains a wonderful character whose blunt nature works well while surrounded with a number of interesting characters. His see-saw battle with trying to leave the legal profession is done in such a way that the reader cannot help but chuckle, more because it is seen to be a part of his ever-aging DNA than anything else. Cudworth Brown and Wentworth Chance keep the story intriguing for diametrically opposite reasons, which allows the reader to see a wonderful contrast. Margaret remains the busybody, though her plunge into federal politics should prove interesting down the road, should Deverell take the reader into that precariously balanced relationship with her across the country. The story was on-point, though I will say that the first third of the novel alternated between the ‘novel’ that Brian Pomeroy was writing about the murders and actual events, leaving the reader to parse through both to determine which is which. Making matters worse, the novel uses the same characters and similar conversations to fuel itself, forcing the reader to reach for a beverage, if only to offer a mental reset. Legal matters flow with ease and the reader is again taken into the courtroom and all that is Arthur Beauchamp in the mastery of legal matters. Deverell is a master at laying out the courtroom and the banter between all its actors, if only to add another complexity to this already heavy piece. Still, it is well worth the journey through all aspects of the piece and anyone with a penchant for legal and courtroom matters will not be disappointed they invested some time.
Kudos, Mr. Deverell, for educating and entertaining on all this legal, particularly homicide. Your twists and turns throughout the narrative are wonderfully executed and kept me guessing.

The Armada Legacy (Ben Hope #8), by Scott Mariani

Eight stars

Ben Hope is back for another high-octane thriller, pulling him in many directions. Still smarting from the recent fallout with Brooke Marcel, Hope has been trying to coalesce and mend his emotional troubles. When Hope hears from one of Brooke’s friends, worried that she has gone missing while at a gala in Ireland, Hope rushes to the country of his birth to look into it. When he arrives, Hope discovers that Brooke was there to learn of an exciting discovering made by a recent underwater exploration company. However Brooke is gone and its founder has been murdered, both his hands cut off. Hope switches to work mode and begins piecing together the clues, turning first to former IRA operatives who used the same technique in their heyday. What begins as fanning the flames as it relates to Irish politics soon takes a darker turn, when Hope learns that a land title from over 500 years before has been taken. Meanwhile, Brooke awakens to learn that she is being held captive by Ramon Serrato, in South America. She learns of the document from the 16th century, but the reason she, herself, was captured leaves a chill running down her spine. Will Hope make it to her in time, before Serrato completes his most dastardly plan yet? Assisted by a local cop with a vendetta, Hope searches through jungles and more primitive dwellings for Serrato and to remove Brooke from any more danger. Mariani does well to offer new and interesting angles in this eighth thriller in the series. Fans of Ben Hope will enjoy this one, which pushes things out of the European theatre and into the deepest jungles of the Americas.

Mariani continues to impress with this piece and explores new ways to keep the attention on Hope and Brooke, as well as their strained relationship. As always, there is much to explore in their backstories, as well as trying to mend the issues that arose when Hope was sure she had turned to another man. Additionally, Hope has the secret of his son, Jude, to share with Brooke. He has not been able to do that yet, though now seems like as good a time as any. Mariani also tackles the tension between the two and tries to weave together an understanding, at long last. Adding a wonderful collection of other secondary characters, Mariani propels the story forward while taking events to Peru. Hope’s search takes the reader along with him, where he continues to show off his soldiering skills in an effort to save Brooke from another sadistic killer. The narrative flows effectively and the reader can feel enveloped in the fast pace of the story, as Hope pushes himself to the limits. Keeping the reader involved to the final pages, Mariani shows that his fountain of ideas is far from running dry.

Kudos, Mr. Mariani for more excitement in this enthralling series. I am eager to see where things will move from here and how you will top the thrills you have laid out already.

The Sacred Sword (Ben Hope #7), by Scott Mariani

Eight stars

Mariani continues to impress in the seventh Ben Hope novel, pushing much onto the reader about the personal struggles of the protagonist, while entertaining with a high-impact mystery that is full of historical curiosity. Still smarting from the fallout with Brooke Marcel, contract psychologist at his training facility and one-time potential romantic interest, Hope heads to Oxforshire to present an award named after his late wife. While there, he runs into Simeon and Michaela Arundel, friends from his days as a theology student. He agrees to spend time with them, having not seen them for over two decades, though hopes that he is not imposing. Simeon is a vicar now, having completed his studies and moved to work under the umbrella of the Church of England. When he arrives at their vicarage, Ben is met by news that Simeon is writing a highly secretive book about a Sacred Sword, though little else is revealed at the time. Soon thereafter, the Arundels are involved in a car accident, though it smells strongly of a murder plot, and someone arrives at their home to retrieve something. Hope is highly suspicious and wonders if it might have something to do with the book Simeon has been writing. Adding a wrinkle to everything, no one has yet reached out to their son, Jude. Hope makes the effort to track him down and deliver the news, alongside some interesting additional information about a Catholic priest who was part of a recent expedition that Simeon made to Israel. Meanwhile, there is someone who wants access to all the information about this Sacred Sword, if only to destroy its whereabouts. As Hope is armed with a few fragments of information, he must be stopped, alongside Jude, who seems to have latched onto the man in their effort to find out the truth behind what Simeon uncovered. Their journey takes them to the Holy Land as well as to the United States, where a reclusive billionaire might have some knowledge essential to better understanding the Sacred Sword, its historical significance, and why that put Simeon and his friends in such danger. Mariani keeps the tension high throughout this novel and offers up much for the reader to explore as it relates to Ben Hope the character. Series fans will enjoy this and can surely promote it to those who might want to find a new series on which to binge in the near future.

Mariani’s significant time spent on the Ben Hope backstory in this novel is readily apparent and appreciated. As I have been binge-reading the series, I have come across a number of wonderful nuggets that help build the Ben Hope character, but there seems to be a rich find in each successful novel, enough to stun series fans. Taking Hope back this his theology days, if only for a time, proves enriching, as some will know that he had pondered returning before having a lapse of faith during one of his missions. There are some key revelations in this book that will only add new chapters to Hope’s emotional development and backstory, alongside the strain of trying to process where he stands with Brooke Marcel. There are a few tie-ins to past novels, including mentions of some of the storyline from The Lost Relic, but the book does stand on its own fairly well. The story is strong and while it does seem Hope enjoys traipsing all over the place, the story holds up well during this race for answers. Religious relics always hold some strong interest for me, as it allows the writer to develop truths or suppositions and then build on them, though there are surely those who will speak from their ivory towers to dispel myths found embedded in these pieces of fiction. Yes, fiction is supposed to allow a few smudges to tell the story, though some seem to forget that and rant on about the errors. The story moves swiftly as Hope works with Jude as a relatively useful sidekick. There is a sense of a small ‘checklist’ in each novel, but it is not as blatantly presented as some authors might use, allowing the narrative to grow and develop with a number of wonderful surprises.

Kudos, Mr. Mariani for another wonderful novel in the series. I am hooked and I cannot wait to dive into the next novel to see where it takes Hope and the rest of those we have come to know so well.

April Fool (Arthur Beauchamp #2), by William Deverell

Eight stars

Returning to the world of William Deverell, I found myself enthralled by this second novel in the Arthur Beauchamp series. Free of the inherent glory of literary awards, the reader is able to get to the core of the story; two powerful legal matters. Enjoying life as a goat farmer on Garibaldi Island, off British Columbia’s mainland, Arthur Beauchamp has not missed the fast-paced life as a defence attorney. Married to his once neighbour, Margaret, Beauchamp has been able to enjoy the quiet life. Margaret, the consummate protestor, has turned her attention to her Save Gwendolyn Project, seeking to prevent companies coming in and destroying the forests, particularly when a pair of eagles are spotted in a nearby tree. Ramping up her efforts, Margaret agrees to sit in a makeshift tree fort to protest the environmental issues. The authorities began cracking down and gathering up some of the protestors, which brings a few lawyers in to help defend the Gwendolyn protestors, including Lotis Rudnicki, newly drawn to the profession but with a long history of small-screen stardom. Meanwhile, one of Beauchamp’s former repeat clients, Mick ‘the Owl’ Faloon has found himself wrapped up in a murder charge related to a therapist with whom he was fraternizing in Port Alberni. Faloon decries his innocence, but all the evidence points to his guilt, particularly seminal fluid found inside the victim. Beauchamp agrees to help, but is soon thrust into first chair after a familial breakdown befalls the original attorney. Working on both the environmental matter and trying to prepare Faloon for trial, Beauchamp begins to develop a closer working relationship with Lotis Rudnicki, the new-age flower child of the legal profession. With Margaret holed away in the tree, Beauchamp must use his mind rather than any other ‘brain’ to move forward and keep things proper. While away on the mainland fighting these two cases, Beauchamp cannot crack how his client’s DNA might have been placed at the scene of the crime, though does not dispute Faloon’s innocence. On the eve of the trial, Faloon organizes an escape and flees to Europe, leaving Beauchamp to begin the trial with the accused in absentia. Paired with a Crown attorney who is eager to push the case quickly before the jury and the Chief Justice presiding, Beauchamp is in for quite the legal circus. Focussed on the murder trial, though always hoping that the Gwendolyn folks remain one step in front of the legal decisions being made in an adjacent courtroom, Beauchamp cannot help but worry about Margaret and her decision to roll the dice to further enamour herself with the environmental activists around. A stunning legal thriller with the perfect development into a courtroom drama, Deverell redeems himself after a less than well-presented series debut. Those who love a good Canadian legal thriller will lap this up and soon see that William Deverell is a master at his trade.
While only the second novel in the series, I am captivated and drawn to the Arthur Beauchamp novels already. Those who had the chance to read my review of the series debut will know that I was confused by all the literary prizes for a piece that seemed to toss too much at the reader in the form of massive chapters, as if it were meant to weed out the less dedicated. Here, Deverell returns after a writing hiatus to develop the Beauchamp character a great deal. With an equally long lull in legal matters, Beauchamp has become a small-town citizen who loves his farming but still spouts Latin to anyone who will listen. He seems to love the peace and quiet that becomes his every day, though there is surely a part of him that remains sharp when it comes to legal matters. Deverell develops less of a backstory on Beauchamp than to build this post-attorney foundation and the happiness in rural British Columbia. However, the old dog still has it in him and Arthur Beauchamp is able to return to the fray at the drop of a hat, though perhaps a little more hesitant and definitely with increased sobriety. Tossing in a more grounded Margaret and a slew of other secondary characters, Deverell offers the reader some interesting contrasts within the story, if only to exemplify the various sides of Beauchamp. The story is crisp and flows with greater ease than the debut, paced out with excellent chapter breaks and poignant forks in the narrative, which allow the reader to see all that is going on. Without weighing things down too much, Deverell does force the reader to become one with the legal battles taking place, therefore he chooses not to skim over key aspects in a single sentence or paragraph. The legal arguments are strong and yet not lost on the non-legal minded reader who might enjoy some courtroom banter. Brilliantly presented and thoroughly enjoyable, William Deverell has a definite winner on his hands when it comes to this series, as long as things continue to build on this powerful second novel.
Kudos, Mr. Deverell, for making the law so entertaining and yet not skimping on it. You foist Canada into the limelight and show just how different we can be from a genre that is supersaturated with vapid American legal stories.

The Lost Relic (Ben Hope #6), by Scott Mariani

Eight stars

Mariani presents his sixth novel in the Ben Hope series, filling it with action and excitement while also stoking the fires of mystery and intrigue. While his training facility has continued to function effectively, Ben Hope is looking to get out of the business once and for all (have we not heard that before?!). Preferring to hand the reins over to a feasible candidate rather than sell, Hope visits a former military colleague in Italy to propose a business opportunity. Unable to garner the expected excitement, Hope meanders through the Italian countryside and stumbles upon a small art gallery. When a gang of Russian thugs attack, Hope goes into combat mode, helping to keep the casualty count low. Heralded as a hero, Hope tries to dodge the limelight, but remains curious as to why only a single piece of art was sought, surrounded by countless other items whose values are exponentially higher. Meanwhile, as the thieves lick their wounds back in Russia, Hope’s name is bandied about as the one who cost them much and orders to have him killed are sent down the line. Additionally, there seems to her an issue with the stolen artwork, an apparent forgery. It is soon understood that there is a connection with the actual sketch and a priceless item from Imperial Russia, the Dark Medusa. While still adjusting to his hero status, Hope is fingered in the murder of a popular Italian and begins life on the lam. Were that not enough, an organization by the name of SOCA is targeting Hope as well, in hopes of luring the Russians out once and for all. As pandemonium erupts and the Dark Medusa remains hidden, Hope must dodge all those who seek his head while preventing this lost relic from falling into the wrong hands. Set in various locales around the globe, Mariani keeps the thrills coming and thrusts the reader into yet another Ben Hope adventure where nothing can be completely predicted. Series fans and thrill seekers alike will enjoy this piece, which exemplifies Mariani’s writing abilities.

Mariani continues to impress those who have taken the time to follow the Ben Hope series with a number of well-paced novels. The continued evolution of the Hope character, both in his present life and through many pieced of backstory, proves effective in entertaining the reader while allowing the plots to educate on matters of history. Ben Hope remains that man that the reader seems to know well, while always producing new and exciting aspects to add to his already complex nature. In this piece, Hope is not summoned into a dangerous mission by a patron, but seems to stumble upon it, which only goes to support my sentiment that he has some Jack Reacher luck. Both men seem to be full of backstory that is slowly revealed and prove to be a draw to various women who cross their paths as their respective series progress. Mariani extends the story a little by creating a subplot involving Brooke Marcel, the psychologist who sometimes works with Hope in his training courses and holds out a flickering flame for the man, even if he is too dense to pick up on the signals. Marcel’s own personal struggles weave their way into the story and leave me to wonder if there might be more to come with this woman in the next book or two, as she has already remained on the periphery. Looking to the larger story, I have often commented that Mariani uses a ‘hinged narrative’ approach, building two stories in the background and taking the readers on an adventure before a literary right angle turn at some point to focus on a secondary thread. This is readily apparent here and it works out so well. There is talk of the Dark Medusa, but it is buried behind all the Italian manhunt storyline that it takes much of the novel to develop and switch while building significant momentum. The reader will revel in this dual plot development and find much excitement as the chapters build effectively. I know the series has much yet to come, but I have seen so much great writing to date that I can only guess where things will go in the coming novels.

Kudos, Mr. Mariani, for another wonderfully developed and executed novel in the Ben Hope series. I can see you have a firm grasp on where things are going without tipping your hand as to how we’ll get there.

The Shadow Project (Ben Hope #5), by Scott Mariani

Eight stars

With Scott Mariani at the helm, Ben Hope is sure to be back on another thrilling adventure, set to reveal what might have been a significant change in history. Enjoying his life in Le Val, his training facility in Northern France, Hope continues to provide top-notch service for those seeking to protect the more vulnerable people of the world. When a training seminar goes too far and Hope loses his temper, a fight ensues; one that could be more costly than the broken bones that Hope’s opponent suffers. Hope is forced to take the team back to Switzerland and offer the kidnap protection service to billionaire Maximilian Steiner, who possesses an interesting document, having procured piece of the Nazi’s larger plan that never saw the light of day. While guarding Steiner, a group attacks his compound and Hope sends in the troops, only to come across a woman from his past, which derails his efforts and leaves Steiner completely enraged. Hope is fired and returns to France, only to discover that his entire business is about to be financially decimated by a lawsuit related to the aforementioned fight. With everything to lose, Hope travels to Austria to track down these neo-Nazi soldiers in hopes of learning a little more about the woman as he tries to piece things together. Meanwhile, a collective of top scientists have been found murdered. Dr. Adam O’Connor learns that his friends have died, but thinks nothing of it until his son, Rory, is kidnapped. Willing to do whatever it takes to save Rory, O’Connor falls into the clutches of these neo-Nazis, who are resurrecting a new type of weapon, nicknamed The Bell, which might have turned the tables on the Allies back in 1944 and closely relates to the document Maximilian Steiner owns. During his search, Hope crosses paths with this technology and learns that Maximilian Steiner is anything but an honest man. With limited time and a new ally in this mystery woman, Hope must dismantle this weapon and learn all of Steiner’s nefarious plans. A needed jolt in this novel has put the Ben Hope series back on track and scored Mariani some well-deserved points. Fan of the series will surely agree that Hope is back in true form and those looking to learn more about Ben Hope have much on which they can base their first impressions.

After a lull in the writing, Mariani seems to have found his groove again, aided with some breathtaking backstory development of the protagonist. The Le Val complex helps develop some of Hope’s character, as his leadership skills are tested, along with his ability to manage his temper. Mariani tests this and the ability for Hope to hold down the business end of the character through various issues that evolve in the story. There is also some development within Hope’s personal life when the aforementioned ‘mystery woman’ emerges back in his life (I choose to let the reader discover her identity by reading the novel). There is surely an emotional investment in the story and Hope pulls on old memories to help shape his present-day interactions. Significant advancement within Hope’s personal life emerges, which could likely return as a minor thread in future novels. The story itself proves entertaining, as is most anything wrapped in a veil of mystery from the past century. The Nazi angle pulls away from the traditional concentration camp discussion, but does allow the reader to wonder ‘what if’ with some degree of fear. The narrative keeps the story moving forward on two tracks and the ‘hinged’ aspect is surely something for which Mariani remains known. I enjoy piecing together where things will cross or how a seemingly minor side story will eventually inflate and take over the central role in the latter chapters. Mariani is back with some exciting ideas and places Hope in precarious situation that force him to rein-in some of his emotional expressions. The reader benefits most from this, through significant enjoyment and story arc advancement.

Kudos, Mr. Mariani, for keeping your Ben Hope series fresh and exciting. You know just when to crank up the excitement to keep the reader curious.

Trial of Passion (Arthur Beauchamp #1), by William Deverell

Seven stars

New to the world of William Deverell, I could not think of a more interesting series to read than that of Arthur Beauchamp. Pair a legal/courtroom drama with a Canadian setting and I was curious from the get-go. Arthur Beauchamp has made a name for himself in the Vancouver legal community as a razor-sharp defence attorney. However, with brambles in both his public and private lives, Beauchamp has decided to settle in Garibaldi, off the mainland of British Columbia. In an attempt to hit his own personal reset button, Beauchamp must acclimate to the more rural lifestyle that presents itself, while still answering questions about this drastic change from family and some friends. Slow to accept the small-town feel, Beauchamp remains steadfast in his desire to remain out of the legal fray, even when a significant case makes headlines and his name is bandied about to defend Professor Jonathan O’Donnell, current Dean of Law at UBC. During an affair with one of his students, Kimberley Martin, O’Donnell is said to have confined and raped her, though the entire ordeal is clouded in an alcoholic haze. As the preliminary hearing progresses in the narrative, Beauchamp is involved in his own legal matter in Garibaldi, with a neighbour who shows that she, too, can be pig-headed when it comes to the law. After mending proverbial fences with Mrs. Margaret Blake, Beauchamp can finally let down his personal wall and agrees to defend O’Donnell, whose significant fees are being covered without blinking an eye. By the time Beauchamp sinks his teeth into the case, there seems to be much more than a simple rape at hand, as the encounter was preceded by a law school party and intense flirting. Add to that, the ongoing sexual encounters that Martin and O’Donnell shared and things begin to take on an entirely new meaning. Armed with a somewhat sturdy defence, Beauchamp is prepared to cross paths with the Crown, though neither could have expected how a newly-appointed judge might handle proceedings. Beauchamp must dodge many a bullet to show that O’Donnell is not the fiend the Crown wishes to make him out to be and that Ms. Martin is anything but the innocent student lured into her professor’s lair. Deverell presents this somewhat meandering legal thriller to the reader and entertains while building a high-brow narrative that is sure to have helped garner him significant literary awards. Not for those who want a superficial legal read, but well worth the invested time of a dedicated reader.
Let me be the first to admit, literary awards mean little to me as a reader. I am more interested in a story that I will enjoy, rather than a panel of individuals seeking high-brow amusement and discovering symbolism in every verb. Deverell has laid the groundwork for an excellent series here by developing Arthur Beauchamp as not only a well-established lawyer, but one who seeks to reinvent himself. His struggle to come to terms with his wife’s decision to divorce and his attempts to adapt to rural living prove to be the ideal fodder to shape this man into someone the reader can enjoy. There is much yet to be said about Beauchamp, but I am intrigued to see if Garibaldi will remain the settling for the series, as it is a wonderful place for the reader to learn more about the aforementioned contrasts. As with any series that seeks to take the protagonist out of their comfort zone, there will be many interesting characters who emerge. Margaret Blake is one that proves to be both a thorn in Beauchamp’s side and yet curries favour with him to the point of commencing something romantic. I am eager to see where Deverell takes that, should he allow them to continue this romantic entanglement. The premise of the book was very strong and the legal aspects kept me thinking throughout, though the presentation left something to be desired. As I began reading, I found myself trying to hack through much of the verbiage that Deverell presents to come to terms with the narrative’s intended effect. Use of extensive Latin and thesaurus-rendering vocabulary left me pondering how long it would take to develop a fondness for the story. By waiting, I was able to survive the slow ascent this literary rollercoaster took and treat myself to a stunning rush once the courtroom matters began building. I soon became hooked, even with stunningly long chapters to present the point at hand. Deverell will hopefully have only used this in the opening novel, though seeing the gem at the end, I will try to persevere, should the follow-up novel be as wordy. The courtroom aspects of the novel propel the story forward and the unique style Beauchamp brings to the defence kept me wanting to learn more and witness things firsthand. I suspect that if the rest of the series, to date, is as legally balanced, I am in for a wonderful binge-read.
Kudos, Mr. Deverell for being able to balance the law and Canada in equal measure. While the setting is not quintessential in this piece you have made me proud to see a Canadian legal thriller of such high quality is available for those who want it.

The Heretic’s Treasure (Ben Hope #4), by Scott Mariani

Seven stars

Mariani brings Ben Hope back for his fourth full-length adventure, constantly reinventing this highly energetic protagonist. Having been through a number of professions in his short life, Ben Hope still wants to hang up his adventure goggles in some form. However, in the world of Kidnap & Ransom, there is never a shortage of work. Seeing an opportunity, Hope purchases some land in France and opens up his own training facility. With things running smoothly, Hope receives a call from Colonel Harry Paxton, a former colleague, who has a mission for him; find his son’s murderers. Eminent Egyptologist, Morgan Paxton, has been working to uncover the ‘Akhenaten Project' in Cairo, the most mysterious project of his life. While torn, Hope cannot help but remember the elder Paxton’s sacrifice when he was a young soldier and agrees to investigate. However, Hope is also drawn to Colonel Paxton’s much-younger wife, Zara. The attraction seems mutual and Hope forges into Egypt to find the killers and bring some balance to the Paxton family. What begins as a simple mission of redemption soon turns much darker than expected. A double-cross fuelled with Hope’s thinking with his heart pushes him deeper into the Egypt mystery than he pledged. Hope finds himself bouncing around various geographic locations to follow the trail of the Akhenaten Project, culminating in a showdown with a cutthroat terrorist in war-torn Africa. What follows could significantly change the political climate around the world. Who was Pharaoh Akhenaten and how did his secret leave him branded a heretic by those of his era? Mariani keeps the story fresh and the thrills continuous in this Ben Hope story that will have readers curious until the very end. Recommended to series fans and those who need a summer jolt for their reading lists.

Mariani continues to create his Ben Hope character, offering something unique in each of the novels to date. Here, with Hope trying to balance between ‘former warrior’ and ‘fully retired’, Mariani places his protagonist in a spot to explore the teaching role, as if he wanted to pass along his knowledge for the next generation. Of course, that is foiled and keeps him in the game. Interestingly enough, Hope also suffers only briefly with the loss of his wife and turns his eyes (and heart) towards a new interest, though she is surely off limits in the early stages of this book. Mariani continues to portray Hope as a man able to sow many proverbial oats and who has to keep an oak door as the women seek to beat it down. However, this banter between Hope and the lady friends he keeps shows a more tender side to the man who is happy to cut a throat in the line of duty. Turning to the story itself, I found myself, again, less than drawn to the overall idea, though Mariani keeps the reader guessing with all the travel and some of the head butting scenes. One can only hope this lull in the plot does not become a new normal, though with many books yet to go in the series, one can surmise that this is but a brief dial-down. While Egypt has much to offer historically, with scores of mysteries intertwined within its centuries of undiscovered stories, I found this to be less electrifying as I might have liked. Ben Hope has much to offer and the early chapters showed a great deal of intriguing storytelling, but the full-impact story lost me at some points. Again, as mentioned above, there may be a lull here or I might just be a little off my game.

Kudos, Mr. Mariani for advancing the Ben Hope character in new directions. There is surely much to be found in this man and his life in the numerous novels to come.

The Doomsday Prophecy (Ben Hope #3), by Scott Mariani

Seven stars

Scott Mariani continues to impress with his third novel in the Ben Hope series. With continued enthusiasm, Mariani pushes Hope to the brink to entertain readers until the final pages. Having made a promise to his wife that he would retire from this dangerous life once and for all, Ben Hope formally retirement. With distant thoughts of life in the SAS and then as a kidnap and ransom operative, Hope attends a local wedding, ready to return to his theological studies. While there, an old colleague approaches him for work, though Hope has little to offer, proudly announcing that he is ‘out of the game’. Soon after returning to Oxford, Hope is summoned by a former professor and asked to undertake a special mission. Erratic biblical archeologist Zoe Bradbury has gone off the radar and her family is trying to determine if she is alive and well. Citing his dedication to his studies, Hope passes the easy case off to his friend, who sets out for the Greek Islands. When Hope receives a panicked call, he agrees to come and help sift through the mess. A bomb blast in a crowded area leaves many dead and Hope on the case to find Bradbury, if only to determine what has been going on. Meanwhile, Bradbury has been held by a group who are trying to extract a secret from her, one that could change Christianity forever. Hope follows the trail from Greece to the American Deep South, where he discovers the pull of evangelical Christianity and the sway it holds over many. Might Bradbury have discovered something to do with the Book of Revelations, the cornerstone to the End of Days prophecies by which many evangelicals live and breathe? Hope will stop at nothing to find out, even if it means battling a fiery preacher and a rogue collective of CIA operatives. Armed with a single CIA agent he can trust in Alex Fiorante, Hope pulls out every stop to bring this mission to a successful completion. Whether or not he finds Bradbury, he is in the crosshairs of a few ruthless killers and a fundamentalist sect who will stop at nothing to bring about their own End of Days. Another piece that ramps up the energy while delivering a punch to the gut. Highly recommended for those who like a fast-paced mystery that delves into areas some might call taboo!

Mariani has done a wonderful job to continue the development of Ben Hope’s backstory. While much is going on in his present, including the death of a loved one, the reader continues to sift through his past to discover his dedication to theological studies. That said, I have a hard time picturing an Anglican priest fighting crime, but stranger things have happened. Ben Hope will always be SAS, as it is embedded into his psyche. He will also always foster a desire to help those who have been taken, a.k.a his K&R work. However, he does not remain stagnant, shooting and killing while scooping and running. He trips on the mysteries of the world, becoming more academic and pensive in his actions. Mariani offers the reader this multi-faceted approach and it works well for the series so far. True, there is a long way to go, but with constant character development and background foundational support, Ben Hope will never become stale, as some characters in the genre have started to lose their lustre. Turning to the story at hand, it pulls on the drama of a missing person search with the undertones of something scandalous that could change the world. I will admit that this did not hold my attention as much as I would have liked. Perhaps the topic at hand, the truth of the Book of Revelations, was a little too weighty for Mariani to tackle in the pages of this book, but the pace at which he developed the story was decent. The narrative kept the plot clipping along and moving from scene to scene, as well as various locales. The trademark hinged narrative is back again, though the primary plot remains dangling for close to the entire story, allowing readers to feel a sense of completion only when the last chapter presents a final period. A slight dip in the overall delivery, but I was still hooked on seeing where Hope would take things and whether there would be another of those ‘single novel no strings’ romances.

Kudos, Mr. Mariani for keeping me entertained throughout. I have a large audio stack to go, so best forge onwards and lose myself in another Ben Hope thriller.

The Cuban Affair, by Nelson DeMille

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Nelson DeMille, and Simon & Schuster for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.
Returning with another novel full of political commentary and a slice of dry wit, Nelson DeMille shows how he has long been a master storyteller with yet another sensational novel. Daniel ‘Mac’ MacCormick enjoys the quiet life in Key West, Florida. Having traded in his military life for that of a charter boat captain, he is able to enjoy the calm breeze and only a few arrogant customers at a time. When he is approached with an offer to sail a group down to Cuba, the idea does not much appeal to him. Up the ante to over a million dollars for his troubles and he is in. With the Cuban Thaw, Americans are slowly becoming accepted in the country, but this mission is anything but an advance team for the party planners during the welcoming fiesta. Instead, Mac will work with Cuban American Sara Ortega to secure a vast sum of cash and valuables left by her banker grandfather before the Cuban Revolution. These vast riches are currently stashed away in a cave well away from Havana’s lights. Posing as members of a Yale Travel Group, Mac and Sara arrive in Havana and begin putting their plan into action. Their cover seems secure and a faked holiday romance soon turns completely genuine. However, their Cuban tour guide may be onto them and tips his hand a little too soon. With a general idea of where the money is located and a plan to get it out of the country in the dead of night, all it will take is a timely execution of the plan. Trouble is, they still need to get back to US soil before they are caught by the Cubans. Might this operation bring a renewed diplomatic chill to a relationship that remains precariously uncertain? Full of one-liners and sarcastic banter, DeMille entertains, educates, and enthrals fans with this novel. Recommended to anyone with a great respect for humour in its driest form paired with a story ripped from the headlines.
Nelson DeMille has a style all his own and exemplifies it yet again here. His use of sarcasm and dry wit passes through all protagonists borne of his pen, but it is the delivery and the ease with which the reader can enjoy its inclusion that makes it so accepted. Mac is another wonderful character cut from the same cloth as John Corey. He seeks the simple life and yet seems to find trouble at every turn. He has just the right amount of machismo to lure in the women and leave the men beating their chests in jealousy. Using a military backstory, DeMille is able to not only pull his protagonist into the current situation at hand, but also pull punches as it relates to the two wars that continue to simmer when US boots need not be. Add in a spicy female to offset Mac’s bravado and you have a wonderful pairing. Ortega is an independent woman who wants to do her family proud, but cannot deny the allure of this scarred ship captain. Turning to the story, DeMille weaves a wonderfully realistic story, using some of his research during a trip to the country in 2015 and shows how the Thaw might be welcomed on one side, but not yet fully celebrated in Cuba. Still, it is apparently the State Department that has turned this police state into the untrusting tiny country that has been a thorn in the American backside. Rich with history and descriptions of the countryside, DeMille takes the reader to the streets of rural Cuba and nighttime Havana with his well-crafted narrative. Injecting just the right amount of political commentary, the reader will surely see the Thaw through the eyes of a patriotic American who has witnessed the sentiments on the other side. Whatever Cuba might be to the reader, this is a wonderful story and keeps the action going until the final pages. Witty yet full of social comparisons between the two nations, DeMille delivers a knockout punch.
Kudos, Mr. DeMille for telling this story at a time when many are surely questioning the need for ongoing embargoes and travel restrictions. They may have once been chummy with the Russians, but Cuba poses much less of a threat than the current American Administration.