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.

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.

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 Mozart Conspiracy (Ben Hope #2), by Scott Mariani

Eight stars

Returning for another full-length novel, Scott Mariani sends Ben Hope into a tailspin of emotions. After learning that his friend and former colleague, Oliver Llewellyn, has drowned in a freak winter accident, Hope attends the funeral. While there, Ben sees Oliver’s sister and his own former love interest, Leigh, who is now a well-known opera singer. Tensions rise and Hope disappears before old wounds can be reopened. However, when Leigh contacts Hope for some assistance, they must put their past behind them and focus on the task at hand. Oliver’s death was originally ruled as a drunken accident, but then also attributed to his book research on the subject of Mozart and his apparent murder. Mozart was a member of the Freemasons and to celebrate that he penned a famous opera, The Magic Flute. The competent historian or active Mason would be able to see some of the strong connections to this secret society. Oliver seemed to be positing that Mozart might have been killed by a splinter group, long since extinct. With only an ancient letter by which to follow leads, something isn’t adding up. Oliver’s death is equally troubling to Austrian Detective Sergeant Markus Kinski, who tries to reopen the case. His daughter is briefly taken and his superior takes a sudden retirement, hinting that there might be some things best left alone. When a video lands in their laps, Hope and Leigh begin to wonder if the Order of Ra is alive and well, committing ritualistic murders. Oliver seems to have captured one of these before he was caught and potentially killed to keep him quiet. In a race to find out the truth behind the deaths of both Oliver and Mozart, the Order is hot on their heels. Kinski begins to work with Hope and Leigh, helping to protect the opera star and his own daughter while the Order remains active. Unfortunately, the Order of Ra is deep and has ties everywhere, which forces Hope’s hand, if he wants a happy ending to this conspiracy. Electrifying and fast-paced, Mariani knows how to pull the reader in with breadcrumbs and lead them around the world on this historical mystery.

I will admit that I am quite intrigued by the Ben Hope series, with all its undertones and subplots that fill the pages of the pieces I have discovered to date. Mariani imbues much that the reader can enjoy while not getting too caught up in the minutiae of the historical record. While the series is only two full novels in (and three novellas/short stories), much of the Ben Hope backstory is coming to the surface. In this novel, they reader learns a little more about Hope’s SAS time and the woman he abandoned, as well as his mindset on settling down. I do hope that these building blocks turn out to be poignant as the series continues. At present, Hope remains the only constant character, but that might change, forcing the reader to pick up much of the description offered to the other characters in the book. Mariani does a stellar job bringing the reader into the lives of these characters and building a sense of connection, which can only help push the narrative forward. Mariani also pushes to keep the story moving and interesting, choosing some of the lesser known historical happenings and crafting a story around them. This allows him to play with fact and fiction, while also keeping the reader wondering. I get a small chuckle, as Mariani appears keen to ‘destroy’ the evidence that could turn the world on its head, at some point in the novel, which is a tactic used by another author in the genre who has a similar plot thread. I have noticed that Mariani enjoys what I would called a ‘hinged narrative’, in that he tells the story that has been progressing nicely, but peppers the narrative with a subplot or alternate storyline that does not seem to play into what is going on. Then, three-quarters of the way through, the primary story resolves itself and the hinge ‘bends’, turning the story onto this new path, creating a secondary adventure, one might say. This seems to work and does tie in nicely, without leaving the reader feeling cheated or too out to sea with the earlier narrative mentions. The story is strong and the characters help fuel a wonderful narrative. What more could a thriller do for someone seeking an escape?

Kudos, Mr. Mariani for keeping me hooked. I am steamrolling through these pieces, but loving them very much!

The Alchemist’s Secret (Ben Hope #1), by Scott Mariani

Eight stars

In this first full-length novel, Scott Mariani propels Ben Hope into the middle of an ancient mystery, some would rather have left in medieval times. Hope is enjoying his life as a former SAS operative, ensconced in the world of K&R (kidnap and ransom), particularly when the victims are children. When Hope is approached by a wealthy man to help him find a manuscript that purports to hold alchemical secrets, skepticism surfaces and the mission is declined. However, upon learning that this might be the only way to help the man’s granddaughter, a crisis of conscience arises and Ben agrees to take the case and commences the search for the Fulcanelli Manuscript. Steered towards Paris, Hope begins searching for his manuscript that is said to hold keys the Elixir of Life. He encounters a controversial American scientist, Dr. Roberta Ryder, who has her own feelings about this document and seeks to come along, having always wanted to examine Fulcanelli’s notations. However, someone is trying to steer her astray and keep Ryder on the radar of the police. Immortality being what it is, many others are searching for the Manuscript, including a dark organization, Gladius Domini. They will stop at nothing to uncover the secrets and have targeted Hope and Ryder for extinction, if that is what it will take. Headed by a powerful man within the Catholic Church, Gladius Domini purports to be acting in the name of God. As the search continues, a psychiatric patient who has read large portions of the Manuscript might hold some key aspects that Hope will require in his search. However, self-inflicted injuries and incoherent babble led to a deadly outcome. Could these rantings still be useful? Hope and Ryder do all they can to find the truths of the Fulcanelli Manuscript while trying to keep Gladius Domini at bay. As the story progresses, the reader travels with Hope and Ryder on a dangerous trail from Paris to the ancient Cathar strongholds of the Languedoc, where an astonishing secret has lain hidden for centuries. Might Hope lose his life trying to extend that of a sick girl? Mariani storms onto the scene with this new series and keeps readers hooked from the opening paragraphs. An exciting adventure that mixes the devotion of Jack Reacher with the historical obsessions of Robert Langdon. Not to be missed by fans of either protagonist.

Asked by a friend if I would try this series, I decided to stop procrastinating once and for all. I thoroughly enjoy the premise of the Ben Hope series and found that the character, while similar in some regards to the two men mentioned above, also individualises himself nicely. Hope brings much baggage and fast-paced decision making from his time with the SAS, but also a penchant for dedication. He pulls on an ability to decipher codes and hidden messages, while peeling back historical understandings of items not known to many beforehand. It is still early in the series, but I can begin to see an interesting foundation for the Ben Hope character and Mariani offers up some interesting backstory about Ben and his reason for being involved in K&R, pieces that were not clear even with the three short stories that precede this novel. The story is by no means unique, but its development and content does have a degree of individuality, such that the reader will likely want to take a look. Without getting too weighed down with religious symbols, the Fulcanelli Manuscript offers up the one things many have sought for so long, the answer to eternal life. I’d surely use it to read and review all the books that teeter on my ‘to be read’ list. You?!

Kudos, Mr. Mariani for starting the series off with a bang! I am very curious and hope to read more about Ben Hope and his various adventures in the coming weeks.

Bring Him Back (Ben Hope #0.7), by Scott Mariani

Eight stars

Scott Mariani offers up another wonderful early story about his strong-willed protagonist, Ben Hope, in this short piece. After the traumatic kidnapping of her son by a crazed ex-husband, Jessica Hunter looks to Ben Hope for some answers. While the police are working to find Carl, they have been unable to find any solid leads, forcing Hope to take measures into his own hands. While poking around, Hope is able to find some definite clues that point to the mindset of Drew Hunter, though nothing seems to match the man who appeared at the family home. In a case that takes him to Italy and eventually the Principality of Monaco, Hope chases down leads left by, of all people, Carl. What he finds is a narrative that differs greatly from a crazed father trying to capture his son for his own. Instead, there seems to be a degree of trying to save his son from a clueless mother and a new step-father who is not the doting parental figure he tries to portray. With Carl found, the story takes a new turn and twists in ways that will force Ben Hope to show just how sharp his former-SAS skills can be after retiring. A well-paced piece that will appeal to Ben Hope fans and new series readers (such as myself) alike!
I have read three short stories to commence by Ben Hope binge read and I have a good sense of the man, up to now. Gritty and full of pep, Hope seeks to balance the world after seeing some of the worse aspects in his time with the SAS. However, not only does Hope pack some military might, but also a keen eye for sleuthing, which is exemplified here in spades. What lies ahead for the full-blown novels, I have no idea, but if Hope is as exciting there as he has been here, I know I am in for a wonderful ride. The story seems to be one that has two portions, the early stage that develops as the reader would expect, but then there is another, found when a twist falls into place. That twist takes the narrative and the theme in an entirely new direction and keeps the reader from being able to predict things until the very end. That Hope is a kidnap and ransom specialist proves only to be part of the alluring equation in this piece, as Mariani offers up his protagonist’s full skill set to keep the narrative clipping along. I can only hope that there will be more of this determination as the series develops. I am ready to dive in to the full-length novels to see where they will take me.
Kudos, Mr. Mariani for keeping me curious and ready to explore the world of Ben Hope. I have heard much about this series and can only hope (pun intended) that things progress as nicely as they have up to this point.

The Tunnel (Ben Hope #0.6), by Scott Mariani

Eight stars

Continuing on what is sure to be an interesting journey, I am slowly making my way through the works of Scott Mariani, particularly those involving Benedict ‘Ben’ Hope. In this short piece, Hope has recently left the SAS behind and is a freelancer. Having dabbled a little in the world of Kidnap and Ransom, Hope stumbles upon a former colleague, whose drunken stupor leads him to spill the beans on Operation Solitaire, a highly-covert operation from seven years before. Hope begins to explore Solitaire and those who were involved, learning that many chose to end their lives prematurely, though the circumstances do not entirely add up. All this leads to Liam Falconer, head of the Operation and former superior to Hope himself. After stalking him to his home in Scotland, Hope confronts Falconer with the information he has in his possession, soon learning not only the details of the Operation, but also some of its justification. Now it is up to Hope to make a major decision, with Falconer standing before him. It’s Christmas Eve, 2004. How much cheer does Hope have left? A wonderful piece, short though jammed with wonderful information to keep fans of Ben Hope excited while serving the purpose to lure new fans, such as myself, deeper into this complex series. A great read for beach or rainy day alike.
As I still try to hash out the premise of the Ben Hope character, this piece has done a great deal. Providing the reader with context and backstory, Hope’s past comes alive as Mariani lays out some of the groundwork to present a man that will push through many an adventure in the years to come. Hope’s military background and attention to detail will come in handy as his sleuthing skills are sharpened, but it's the character himself that keeps the reader wondering. The premise of the story was great, set before the backdrop of a snowy Christmas Eve, though the contents of the plot are anything but joyous. I have a much better understanding of Hope and how he portrays himself, but this one-man sleuth will surely have many interesting angles to explore as I find myself deeper into the series and more connected to all those who appear in the stories.
Kudos, Mr. Mariani for another early gem. I can only hope that you have more in store for us and that the Ben Hope character continues to evolve on the written page and in your mind while to place him in numerous adventures.