The Nemesis Program (Ben Hope #9), by Scott Mariani

Eight stars

Just when series fans are likely prepared for Scott Mariani to run out of ideas, Ben Hope emerges in yet another life path, prepared (yet again!) to settle down. Having left Le Val and his training facility in his past, Hope has settled in nicely at the vicarage and serving in the accompanying capacity. Convinced that he ought to finish his theology studies, Hope is also preparing to marry Brooke Marcel after their harrowing proposal in the Peruvian jungles. A few days before the nuptials, Hope and his son, Jude, are busy working on the property when they are visited by an American. However, this is not just any American, but scientist Roberta Ryder, a former flame of Hope’s (from the beginning of the series). She tells of how her close friend in the scientific community, Claudine Pommier, has been murdered. Paris authorities feel that she is the latest victim of a serial killer, but Ryder is not convinced. She uses her wiles and persuasive arguments to convince Hope to follow her to Paris to help investigate. Hope has no bones asserting his decision on Brooke, who protests this gallivanting behaviour, especially this close to the wedding. Refusing to listen, Hope dashes off with Ryder and makes plans to investigate further. While being attacked by a handful of henchmen, Hope learns that there must be something more than a simple murder at play here. Ryder explains more about Pommier’s research into some of the scientific discoveries of Nicola Tesla, who was at work on experiments using energy waves. The Serbian had also begun work on a weapon of sorts that utilised these ideas. Pommier knew secrets related to the weapon that many would either like for themselves, or out of the hands of others. Working with Ryder to locate the other scientist in whom Pommier confides, they head to Sweden, only to learn just how devastating Tesla’s invention could be, if put in the hands of the wrong people. Hope and Ryder must work together to get their hands on Tesla’s research and prototypes, which were confiscated upon his death in the 1940s by the American Government. However, nothing is as easy as it seems, especially with a branch of the US Government working hard to develop a weapon of mass destruction. Victor Craine is at the head of this and Hope must stop him, before the world order shifts permanently. Another wonderful thriller by Mariani, which pushes the Ben Hope character in new and troubling directions. Series fans will surely enjoy this next instalment in the series, though Hope’s troubling behaviour will surely leave some less than impressed with the protagonist.

As I continue my Ben Hope binge, I have come to see much growth and development in the narratives, as well as with the protagonist. Mariani works hard to keep each story unique, though there is still the ‘save the world man’ inherent in the Ben Hope persona. Hope takes his personal life and tries to reinvent himself, though seems weak in his attempts, as he is derailed by a simple plea from a damsel in distress. How he is able to easily to push aside his latest ‘love of my life’ seems problematic, especially in the face of strong criticism by his own son and sister. Mariani uses this novel to draw on a number of the characters that have entered Hope’s life and offers them a part, even if it is only a small role. Returning to historical science, Mariani leads readers down an interesting path and presents a thriller around the ‘what if’ possibilities. Dedicated series fans will likely enjoy something with a little more meat, based on history, as the narrative take some literary freedoms to strengthen its foundation. However, there is a niggling issue that I have wanted to address for a while. I admit, this is fiction and so the reader ought to suspend their beliefs in some form, but Hope seems to always have oodles of money whenever he needs it, cached away in a million spots. I can only imagine that his diamond-encrusted four poster bed awaits him in a future novel. It seems he can always fly to the far corners of the world and just HAPPENS to have tons of cash for anything at the drop of a hat. There, rant over. Bring on the tenth novel!

Kudos, Mr. Mariani for keeping me entertained throughout. I am grateful to have found this series and love how things are developing.

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