The Bach Manuscript (Ben Hope #16), by Scott Mariani

Eight stars

Scott Mariani returns with this sixteenth novel in the Ben Hope collection, after a highly-anticipated wait that was only exacerbated by my binge-reading the previous fifteen. Straddling the past and present in the storylines, Mariani opens new pathways while also trying to fill in previous blanks in the Hope story. After returning to Oxford for a reunion, Hope runs into an old friend, Nick Hawthorne, who has become a renowned classical organist. After agreeing to attend a private lunch hosted by Hawthorne, Hope is shown a rare manuscript by J.S. Bach, complete with a unique stain (coffee?). Hawthorne regales how he found it for a steal, though surmises that it must be a fake. During his time in Oxford, Hope must also come to terms with the memory of his lost love, Michaela, those twenty-plus years ago. Series fans will know the secret she kept from him during their time together. When Hope returns back to his dorm after the luncheon, he tries to put the Michaela situation to rest. Hope receives a call in the middle of the night from Hawthorne, who suspects that he is being robbed. By the time Hope arrives, he sees Hawthorne being tossed from his balcony and landing in a way sure to have killed him. As the authorities arrive to investigate, Hope tries to push himself into the mix, only to be shunned. Hope soon learns that the manuscript seems to have been the only thing taken from Hawthorne’s home, leaving him to wonder who might want it. As Hope undertakes his own investigation, he learns that there is a tie to an old friend of Hawthorne’s, a professor who has unintentional connections to a Serbian gangster. Travelling to the Baltic region to track down the manuscript, Hope comes head to head with a ruthless killer, while teaming up with an American woman whose dedication to finding the manuscript matches his own. In a region where tortuous death is child’s play, Hope must not only locate the manuscript, but fight to rectify a decades-old injustice related to its ownership. All that, while trying to stay alive for one more day. Mariani does well to flesh-out a little more of the Ben Hope backstory while thrusting him into new and perilous adventures. A wonderful addition to the series, sure to impress series fans and crime thriller addicts alike.

While I do not consider myself a Mariani expert by any means, I feel that I have a strong connection to, and a passing knowledge of, Ben Hope. This comes from the binge-read I did throughout the summer of all books in the series and helped fuel my impatient wait for this novel to roll off the presses. Those familiar with the series will understand the complexity of the Hope character, which has been shaped significantly by numerous revelations. Some have helped the reader better understand Hope’s childhood, while others offer some insight into the personal relationship struggles that have become part and parcel with the man. However, most interesting of all is the middle ground, the ‘Jude situation’ as I call it. A thread that was spun over twenty years ago and which began weaving itself into Hope’s present life over the past few years relates to his connection with Michaela Ward (eventually Arundel). While this storyline is minor and plays only in the early part of the story, it’s something I found highly entertaining and engaging, as Mariani reveals much. Other characters create an excellent flow to the story and keep things from getting stale, while also breathing some unique light to the plot’s progression, as Mariani steers clear of typical criminals in this terror-centric era of thriller writing. The story is also one that departs some of Mariani’s past work, not looking for a key or cipher in an object, but rather showing its historical importance to someone. This not only personalises the story, but also offers Hope a chance to foster his goodwill side, rather than the kidnap and rescue or ‘secret codex’ aspect that has permeated the narrative throughout this lengthy series. The stories are not becoming stale, nor in the Hope character. I trust that Mariani continues to have some strong ideas that he wishes to put to paper, which will keep fans such as myself nervously awaiting the next instalment.

Kudos, Mr. Mariani, for keeping the quality high and the excitement riveting in this series. I tell whoever I can get to listen about how much I enjoy these novels.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

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The Babylon Idol (Ben Hope #15), by Scott Mariani

Eight stars

Returning to the series roots, Mariani pens this fifteenth novel in the Ben Hope collection in hopes of revisiting some past skirmishes to shape his current thriller. Still gathering their wits after a harrowing adventure in Africa, Hope and Jeff Dekker return to Le Val to revive the training centre and shape the future of tactical security. While tending to the grounds, Dekker is struck by a sniper’s bullet and clings to life. With Dekker in an induced coma, Hope cannot stand idly by, waiting for answers. He begins planning to seek revenge, which is derailed when he receives a mysterious letter from Italy. Within the letter is a message, indicating that rogue Italian archbishop, Massimiliano Usberti, is alive and plotting to exact revenge on many who foiled his early plot of a highly important alchemical secret. Usberti is still smarting that his organisation, Gladius Domini, was brought down by the likes of a single former member of the British SAS. Hope remembers Usberti from years ago, when he was still involved in the kidnap and ransom game. Seeking to contact many from that long-ago case, Hope learns that they have also been slain, which only goes to solidify in his mind that he was the intended target of that bullet. Hope rushes to contact Dr. Roberta Ryder, whose path crossed his during that original case, but also led to his matrimonial demise more recently as well. Sending her into hiding in Canada, Hope turns his attention towards Professor Anna Manzini, whose clashes with Ryder created much drama all those years ago. Locating the researcher in Greece, Hope makes his way there to learn of her latest book, which details a golden idol from ancient times. It was purported to be of King Nebuchadnezzar, though during one of the Babylonian conflicts, it disappeared. Now, new clues may provide hints to its location, which Manzini wishes to uncover. However, Usberti would do well with this priceless piece as well, fuelling him to hire a handful of men to kill Hope once and for all before locating the idol. As Hope and Manzini rush across ancient biblical lands, they must decipher the clues while dodging Usberti’s men, who will stop at nothing to destroy those they are tasked to find. When Hope falls into a trap, he and Manzini become prisoners and everything seems lost in the deserts of modern-day Syria. With a Civil War raging, their demise might come from a bullet aimed in multiple directions. Mariani brings new life to an early story in the series, impressing series fans with more Ben Hope adventures. Wonderfully paced and developed until the very end.

Having binge read the entire series, I feel a strong connection to Ben Hope and some of the things Scott Mariani has done to energize his protagonist. The arc of Hope’s life in the series has been significantly shaped by the fifteen novels and additional short stories that have comprised the collection. Interestingly enough, the end of my binge brings me back to where it all began (novel-wise, at least) for me, with Gladius Domini and the high-impact thriller that shaped Hope. After all the meandering throughout the series, Hope is back at Le Val and seeks solitude and normalcy, though neither are seen with much regularity for this man who attracts peril. Fuelled to help others and set things right, Hope will not rest until he feels balance has been restored, on his terms. Tossing in many former characters that have graced the pages of the novels, Mariani turns this book into a ‘homecoming’ of sorts, though there are times of despair that offset the joy of seeing old friends return. Turning to his old technique of ‘hinged narratives’, Mariani begins the novel with the dramatic shooting of Jeff Dekker and Hope’s desire to hunt down the sniper, but things soon turn on their head and he is off helping others. There is little time for rest or peace, though a lack of funds never seems to be a problem for either Hope or Manzini throughout the story. Balancing history, biblical storytelling, and a thrilling modern adventure, Mariani weaves together a wonderful story that will remind series readers why they started these novels at the outset. Exciting and leaving the reader wanting more, Mariani has proven himself as a master storyteller.

Kudos, Mr. Mariani for keeping me hooked throughout these varied novels. I cannot wait for the next book in November, though it seems so very far off.

The Devil’s Kingdom (Ben Hope # 14), by Scott Mariani

Nine stars

Picking up moments after the end of the previous novel, Mariani has readers on tenterhooks in this fourteenth book, and for good reason. Explosive and brilliant in its delivery, Ben Hope fans can only wonder if this is the end of the former SAS hero. Having seen Jude carted off by General Jean-Pierre Khosa, a bloodthirsty Congolese warlord, Hope and his crew face significant issues. Hope has to decide if he will rage to free himself, thereby jeopardising Jude’s life, or play it calm and try to plot in his mind. Choosing the latter, Hope becomes a military advisor for Khosa, all the while trying to surmise how he and Jeff Dekker will be able to get out of this mess. Firmly in possession of the Star of Africa diamond, Khosa begins bandying around selling the stone to fund his own army and looking to enact a coup to gain even more power. While Hope and Dekker toil for the crazed man, Jude is hidden away, where he meets a young American journalist. After learning a little more about the region’s recent history, Jude discovers that there is an international mining aspect to the larger story, one that could present this country’s leader with many riches, while keeping the population firmly in a state of abject poverty. Plotting their escape, Jude and Rae Lee try to outmanoeuvre guards with little impetus to do their jobs, hoping that they can reach out to Hope before it is too late. All the while, Hope is suppressed and subjected to countless beatings. This has gone beyond a mere diamond or territorial grab, pitting one man’s soul against the other. However, when in the Devil’s Kingdom, the rules don’t matter. Perhaps the most impactful of all Mariani’s novels to date, series fans will surely flock to this after reading STAR OF AFRICA. I can see few being disappointed with it, as word of mouth will surely garner many new fans for Scott Mariani.

Pairing some of my comments from the previous review with this one, the reader can surely see much growth in Ben Hope. From a man whose concern was for his team while with the SAS through to a solo life thereafter, Hope has always known exactly what needed doing and how to accomplish that. However, with the introduction of Jude Arundel, the possibility of a change arose, only exacerbated when danger befell the son Hope never knew he had. These two novels force Hope to choose parental worry over self-preservation, or at least test that crossroads. When Hope chooses to save his son at his own peril, the reader can let out a cheer that things may finally be taking a turn and the shards of his recent self-destruction may be coming back together. Mariani pulls on the reader’s heartstrings repeatedly, bridging the relationship between the two men, even when they are not together. Continuing with some of the other characters in the novel, their personalities shape things significantly and allow the reader to tease out even more development by the protagonist. The brutality found in this novel surpasses most anything that has been seen previously. While some may criticise Mariani for creating a ‘savage mentality’ of the African soldiers (particularly Jean-Pierre Khosa), one need only look to news reports of clashes in the region over the past twenty years to see that this is a different type of fighting and brutality that ignores the treaties of humanity. Graphic, yes, but it pushes the limits of what the series has shown the enemy combatants capable of doing to get their own way. It also pushes Hope and his crew completely out of their comfort zone, which adds a layer of intrigue and thrill to the genre, needed to differentiate it from much on the market. The story is gripping and takes the reader to the depths of despair on many occasions, which is needed and appreciated by some series fans. Hope cannot always be expected to waltz in and crack a few skulls before scooping up the captive and prancing off. Blood will be shed and lives will be lost. It is only a matter of how patient and dedicated the reader is to see the story arc through to the end. Please pardon the pun as I say Mariani executed his intended delivery flawlessly and has cemented my dedication to his writing.

Kudos, Mr. Mariani stepping it up yet again. I am constantly surprised at your pool of ideas and cannot wait to see what comes next.

Star of Africa (Ben Hope #13), by Scott Mariani

Nine stars

There is much luck for series fans in Scott Mariani’s thirteenth novel in the Ben Hope series. In a novel that offers some tying-off of loose ends and a highly explosive plot, the reader has little chance to breathe as the action builds continually. As part of his vagabond nature, Hope finds himself back in Paris to sell off his home and free up some capital. Taking a temporary detour, Hope visits Le Val, the tactical training centre he created and gifted to his friend, Jeff Dekker. While trying to fill himself in on some news, Hope learns that Dekker helped Jude Arundel, recently discovered to be Hope’s son, secure a spot on an American merchant marine vessel currently in the Indian Ocean. Jude, tired of playing it safe, has chosen an opportunity to spread his proverbial wings. While Hope and Dekker find themselves busy at Le Val, Jude is in the middle of the ocean with the crew, though he can sense something is wrong. Learning that there is cargo more precious than the contents of the shipping containers, concerns rise that Jude might know too much. When a ship of marauding pirates appears on the horizon, Jude realises that there is much trouble to come and takes desperate measures to reach Dekker back in France. Upon learning of the ship’s issues, Dekker, Hope, and a crew of men rush to locate them, and covertly descend on the ship to handle the Somali pirates. When a storm hits and destroys the ship, Hope leads his crew and prisoners onto a life raft, where they seek assistance and final rescue. It is at this point that Hope learns about the calculated attack and that the Star of Africa, a precious diamond, is the central piece of cargo that many seek to take for themselves. When a rescue helicopter appears in the sky, Hope can only surmise that his troubles might be over, only to learn that General Jean-Pierre Khosa, a bloodthirsty Congolese warlord has his eyes set on not only the diamond, but to turn the tables and take a handful of hostages for himself. Pitting Hope’s love for his son against a general will to survive, the story pushes the decision to the limit, with a cliffhanger that will leave the reader rushing for the next novel. Mariani has pulled together many of the dangling threads form earlier novels to create this electrifying thriller, which entertains series fans and proves that Mariani has much in store for Ben Hope.

This Ben Hope binge has been highly informative over the past while, allowing me to see much growth in many of the characters, both central and periphery. As I have mentioned before, Ben Hope has undergone much change in the series to date, both progressive and regressive. It would seem that Mariani has surveyed the horizon and is seeking to mend some of these strained connections, or at least bring some resolution to them after Hope’s abrupt choice to kibosh his wedding two days before the ceremony. In this novel, there is much development of the Hope-Dekker relationship, which has always been a minor narrative mention, as well as a stronger and more emotional connection between Hope and Jude, paired together for a significant amount of time. This father-son connection was strained to begin, severed, and has since been resurrected as Hope seeks to play hero. However, Mariani adds another layer to the connection, forcing Hope to decide once and for all if he will choose Jude (thereby showing a parental side) or himself when the stakes are high. There are still a few character relationships that I hope Mariani mends, but the series is not over yet. Turning to the story in general, the excitement of this ‘terror on the high seas’ has me much pleased, as it adds levels of thrill that have been scaled back in some of the past novels. Looking not only to the seas, but the African continent and the search for an important diamond, Mariani pits his characters into a high-octane story that does not let up until the very end. There is truly a contrast in this novel, as the theme and location turns to the African continent, where social, political, and economic flavours differ greatly from the Euro- or Ameri-centric storylines that Mariani has used before. Depicted masterfully, the reader can feel the terror of Khosa’s bloody decisions that seek to exacerbate the already strained relations of the hostages.This is the first of a two-novel mini story arc that seeks to really flesh things out for all involved and forces the reader to buckle down for a detailed adventure that will pull on the heartstrings of many. The delivery is strong and the story development shows Mariani at his best and proves that his well of ideas is far from dry. I can only hope that there is much to come in this series, which has not dipped into going stale or off-putting, as can occur when authors seek to churn out books without careful plotting and slow development.

Kudos, Mr. Mariani for keeping me hooked this far into the series. What a great choice for binge reading and there are still a few more to go.

The Cassandra Sanction (Ben Hope #12), by Scott Mariani

Seven stars

Continuing with a new-found vagabond lifestyle, Ben Hope tends to open the novel with more mystery, at the hands of Scott Mariani’s infinite list of ideas. Seeking again to live under the radar, Hope finds himself in Spain and witnesses a dust-up in a bar. Stepping in to help, Hope becomes acquainted with Raul Fuentes, who is trying to defend the honour of his sister, who seemingly committed suicide not too long before. The more Hope learns, the more he finds himself aligning with Raul’s belief that Catalina might be alive, her death part of an elaborate plan. Tracing her steps, Hope and Raul try to determine where she might have gone and for what reason. As they scour the European continent, Hope learns that Catalina Fuentes was known for not only her beauty, but the brains behind it. A solar physicist, her work related to sun spots was known within the academic community. Dodging a collection of men sent to deter them, Hope and Raul soon come face to face with the woman they seek, but this is only the start to their woes. Catalina tries to convince them to let her be, but when that fails, she expounds upon some troubling research that she has uncovered. What she knows might be more deadly to her that the world at large, though there is certainly enough to make headlines around the world. With one man seeking to destroy Dr. Fuentes at any cost, Hope must do all he can to save her before it’s too late. Another interesting science-based story from the archives of the master storyteller, Scott Mariani. Series fans will surely want to focus their attention on this one, as it charms and impresses on many levels.

The ongoing metamorphosis of Ben Hope has become a staggered process and one in which the protagonist struggles with shedding his past. Wanting a life free from of drama, Hope seems to be a magnet for it and cannot help but turn towards those in need. However convinced he is to himself, Hope cannot help but crack all mysteries and save all damsels. That said, there is only now a slow thaw as it relates to his family and what he did when he abandoned everyone two novels ago. This progression is an interesting contrast to the aforementioned lifestyle change he seeks. A dozen novels into the series, the story is rich in science and yet the thriller aspect is not lost on the dedicated reader. Things can get a little hung up and this might be one reason I was not able to push through with as much ease as I would have liked. However, that does not mean that its quality was lacking whatsoever. I am highly excited to see where Hope will go and how he will use some of his ever-evolving experience to tackle the next case. I yearn for more, Mr. Mariani and hope you have some real high-impact stories to come, both that address Hope’s need for thrills and his personal struggles that remain unresolved.

Kudos, Mr. Mariani for keeping me hooked this far into the series. What a great choice for binge reading and there are still a few more to go.

The Martyr’s Curse (Ben Hope #11), by Scott Mariani

Eight stars

Seeking to reinvent Ben Hope (and have the character do some of that himself), Scott Mariani tries to turn the tables on the traditional path taken by novels in this series. Emotionally lost, Hope spent some time after his last mission in America wandering around the European continent. After settling in a French monastery, Hope uses the kindness of the monks to regroup and turn away from his personal vices. Seven months into his stay, Hope begins to wonder (again?!) if he ought to commit to a life of godliness and away from the toils of the outside world. While running an errand for the monastery, the sole vehicle breaks down and Hope, in a moment of weakness, turns to his old ways of drinking to excess. During this sojourn, Hope encounters someone from his past, only making the situation worse. Picking himself up, Hope returns to the monastery, only to find that all the monks have been murdered. One of the killers appears to have died in the crossfire as well, his getaway bag weighed down by two large gold bricks. After a pat-down, Hope finds a mobile phone and through a series of phone calls, coaxes one of the team to meet him. After grilling her, Hope discovers that this Sylvie Valois is actually working for French Homeland Security, trying to infiltrate a gang headed up by Udo Streicher, Swiss mercenary and devious criminal. Hope and Sylvie begin their slow search for Streicher, learning a little more about some of the hidden secrets the monastery has been saddled with over the centuries, all of which followed the controversial execution of Salvator l’Aveugle. Might Streicher have been stealing the gold as part of a larger plan related to Salvator’s final professions before being burned alive? Heading into Switzerland, Hope and Sylvie do their best to learn more, all while dodging the French and INTERPOL officials. When Hope learns of Streicher’s final plan and a secret kept in ancient documents that could have cataclysmic results, he and Valois must netralise things before they get out of hand. An interesting twist in the series, Mariani shows that Ben Hope can never steer entirely away from trouble or action. Series fans will surely enjoy this addition as Hope continues to show his prowess.

While I prefer not to compare authors or characters, I cannot stop from stating that Mariani’s Ben Hope is becoming more and more like Child’s Jack Reacher with each passing book. Series fans (and those who read my reviews) will remember that Hope messed up with his fiancée Brooke Marcel and left her hanging so that he could go about doing his own thing. As with many of the novels, Hope finds himself working with a female sidekick (though sometimes he is the one following his female companion) and there is always a question of chemistry. Hope tends to keep the females away from his heart (having let two in who pained him) and disappears off to the next location when it suits him. This novel continues that Reacher-esque attitude, with Hope hiding away in a monastery to reinvent himself. Hope wants to live his life and steer away from trouble, but it keeps knocking on his door and he is forced to take action. Mariani offers up Sylvie Valois as the latest sidekick and pushes them into a wonderfully devious story that has history and modern day implications in equal measure. I am happy to see the interactions and can only wonder if Hope will remain the ‘constant wanderer’ that has turned his character into someone new over the last few books. The story itself has some wonderful aspects, to the point that there was a race to see the past in order to stop the future, which always excites me more than a simple “shoot ‘em up” plot. Mariani touches on some of the 21st century technology that keeps thriller novels enticing without needing to use the traditional weapons that find their way into many stories. This new Ben Hope might also prove to be even better, as the reader will remain in the dark over where he is and what he does. Brilliant twist!

Kudos, Mr. Mariani for never bowing to the pressure of the genre and keeping readers on their toes throughout the series.

The Forgotten Holocaust (Ben Hope #10), by Scott Mariani

Seven stars

After painting Ben Hope into quite the corner throughout the last novel, Mariani is back with yet another instalment to the series. This forces Hope to pick up the shards of his life after a few illogical decisions have tipped the scales yet again. Hope is back in Ireland, visiting the location of a home he once owned. While there, he meets an aspiring author, Kristen Hall, who shares some of her research. Kristen explains that she is attempting to pen the first difinitive biography of prominent early feminist, Lady Elizabeth Stamford. Hidden within Lady Stamford’s private journals lies a secret that could change the perception of Irish history forever. Hope and Kristen meet early one morning and are attacked by a crew of men, leaving him in the hospital and her destined for the morgue. What could these men have wanted that was so important? Might the journal truly be filled with scandalous material that someone wants destroyed?Meanwhile, across the world in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Erin Hayes stumbles upon a group of men torturing and eventually killing a man in the cottage of her employer. What is even more troubling is that she recognizes the ringleader as the city’s mayor. She has a copy of the murder on her cellphone and tries to approach the authorities, but soon discovers that she may not be able to trust anyone around her, as this mayoral gang goes all the way to the top of law enforcement. Forced into hiding, Erin must try to reveal what she knows, which extends to something even more troubling than a simple murder. Back in Europe, Hope tracks down some of those whom Kristen was to meet for her research. He learns a great deal more about the time surrounding these journals belonging to Lady Stamford and the Irish Famine of the mid-19th century. Stunning revelations come to the surface during Hope’s discussion with a historian, truths that turn the Potato Famine into something far more sinister. The research takes him to Tulsa, where a number of Irish fled after supersaturating the Eastern Seaboard. There, Hope stumbles upon Erin and her plight, learning that their two ‘missions’ are somewhat interconnected. Armed with the journals and what he knows, Hope must try to help Erin before they are both exterminated and a crooked politician reaps even more power. A great historical spin by Mariani keeps the reader curious and should appeal to fans of the series.

After turning his back, again, on all those who care about him and a journey that would surely have kept him safe from any danger, Ben Hope is left unsure of himself or any choices he has made over the past few months. His ever-evolving character and its development becomes yet another focus in the series, unable to shed the glory of his formidable past. Mariani has stopped looking into Hope’s past and now seems to ask his protagonist to project his own future. Using the traditional ‘hinged narrative’ of the series, Hope meets and tries to help two young women with their issues, tossing himself into the middle of a dangerous situation amid a slew of gunfire. Still, he will not back down when a damsel turns up across his path, though it seems settling down with anyone in particular is out of the question for him. The story is of interest to me, positing a major rewrite from the Irish history books, which might force the reader to suspend reality to a point. However, there is much intrigue in accepting this narrative branch-off and it keeps the early part of the story alive and electrified. In the latter portion of the novel, the reader sees Hope dodging bullets and goons as has become his trademark, where there is no lack of heroics to be had. Hope strives to help and once convinced of a cause, little will deter him. Mariani keeps the reader intrigued with his plot twists and ongoing turns, though I still wonder how the fallout of his matrimonial gamble will play out for our dear protagonist. Hope seems to have thought it was a foregone conclusion that all would work in his favour, though I am curious to see what Mariani has planned.

Kudos, Mr. Mariani for allowing series fans a constant rejuvenation of Ben Hope and his adventures. I can only hope that you will keep the calibre this high as the series advances.

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.

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.