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.