The Crusader’s Cross (Ben Hope #24), by Scott Mariani

Eight stars

It’s a great day when I can get my hands on a novel by Scott Mariani, particularly when it advances the Ben Hope series. While the novels continue to pile up, there is no lessening to the action or Ben Hope’s determination to protect that which he holds dear. After an accident, Ben is home for Christmas to protect La Val, his training facility. A group of thugs chooses to target him and take one of the prized possessions he recently discovered. What a mistake, as Hope has more gumption than patience. When the dust settles, a single thug has escaped and there are bodies all over. Hope takes matters into his own hands and hunts him down, crossing France and into Corsica. Armed with determination and a desire to get back what belongs to him, Ben Hope will stop at nothing to right a wrong. Mariani does a masterful job once again and kept me hooked until the final page turn.

After an accident left former SAS- soldier Ben Hope in a cast, he’s taking it easy this holiday season. He’s recently discovered a passageway under his rural training facility, La Val, which includes a valuable item from the time of the Crusaders. This cross, while also being quite old, has value in its decorative nature and secret weapon. It would seem that news of the cross made its way to town, and beyond, as a carload of Corsicans choose to target La Val when they know Ben will be at his weakest.

Doing his best to fend off the attackers, Ben is able to defend himself and neutralise the gang, save one, Petru Navarro. Using violence and a ‘shoot first’ mentality, Navarro steals the cross and is able to flee before Hope can catch him. Now, all that’s left around the compound are dead gang members and number of dogs that Hope held dear. This lights a fire inside Hope like nothing else, as he is determined to seek revenge, alone!

Tracing Navarro across the rest of France, Hope tries to make headway and stay under the radar. He removes any impediment he has and follows Navarro to Corsica, knowing that this will make things much more difficult. However, Hope is not afraid and has nothing to lose. He will not allow someone to come onto his property and get away with killing. Slowly and methodically, Hope will find Petru Navarro and delivery justice. An electric novel in the series that goes to show that some characters can stand the test of time and many adventures.

I discovered Scott Mariani and the Ben Hope series a few years ago and have not been able to get enough of them since. I usually mark my calendar when a new book is set to be released, knowing that I will be in for a treat. The action is always high and the impact on point, leaving me to lose myself in the well-paced narrative. Scott Mariani seems never to run out of ideas or scenarios for Ben Hope, in an ever-changing world.

Ben Hope remains a strong protagonist and has certainly grown on me over the years. Much of his backstory has been developed and he is free from too much change nowadays. Still, his grit and determination remains high, choosing to help those who matter to him. Ben is eager to discover relics or things of value, but his true investment is defending what belongs to him. I am eager to see how the series will continue, as this was almost a Ben Hope solo affair, while there are many others who impact the series in their own way.

Less a holiday novel than one that happens to occur over Christmas, this is yet another powerful instalment of a series that never seems to lose its momentum. Mariani develops a strong narrative that pushes the story along and keeps the plot twists coming, this time using a continental chase between Hope and a crazed Corsican. The character development enriches the story, though this one was more about Hope versus Navarro than many of the others who have graced the pages of past books. A strong story that clipped along had me enthused to keep reading and learning more about Hope, his situation, and how he would remedy it. I cannot wait for what is to come and how things will work themselves out.

Kudos, Mr. Mariani, for another winner. You never seem to tire of putting Ben in situations that seem almost ‘hope’less, if you pardon the pun.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: