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.