It’s early April, 2003 and Major Jamie Richards (Chaplin) is driving a Humvee as part of a six vehicle convoy in Iraq. They are part of the Fifth (V) Corps and their mission is to support the troops with vital supplies such as water, ammunition and fuel as they battle towards Baghdad. Their little six vehicle convoy has become separated from the rest of their supply unit and will soon separate again as Janie’s vehicle has broken down.
While undergoing repairs, a woman stumbles out of the dark Iraq desert towards the remaining two vehicles. It takes Chaplin Richards a few moments to place her as the sight is so out of the current context. It is the beautiful Adara Dunbar, who Chaplin Richards last saw back at Princeton Seminary when Chaplin Richards was working on her Masters in World Religions. Now, they are halfway around the world, in a war zone with a sandstorm attacking them. The badly hurt Adara has a message for Jamie that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Not only is the rest of their convoy under attack, Adara has a mission for Chaplin Richards to perform since she can’t do it herself.
Adara’s mission demand and questions for her will have to wait while Chaplin Richards and what is left of their convoy race to help their fellow soldiers and they are quickly involved in the battle. Because they are distracted, they miss the assassin in their midst who is trying to kill Richards. Thwarted in his attempt, after making sure Richards is watching, he kills Adara and vanishes back into the dark Iraq desert leaving the body of her friend and the image of his eyes in her mind. That and the knowledge she has to honor her friend by doing what has been asked of her despite all the obstacles in her path.
At the same time that early April morning in 2003, the National Museum of Iraq is quietly robbed. Not with guns blazing but by men with plenty of cash. Cash has been delivered, there are no American soldiers anywhere around in the inexplicably quiet area, and before long, the carefully selected antiquities are gone. Antiquities that have great historical significance as well possibly the keys needed to finally find the location of Eden somewhere within Iraq.
This is one of those epic style thrillers told through various points of view while delving deep into concepts such as the one true race, secret societies, the Aaryan Brotherhood, and others including the core idea that events at the societal as well as at the personal scale have been orchestrated for hundreds of years. Not only that this war was planned for this time to achieve a certain end goal but that everything in some lives has been orchestrated from before their birth so that he or she would be in the right place at the exact right time. Ideas such as these populate the thriller world and have been done by David Morrell, Robert Ludlum and others too numerous to name.
As such, there isn’t anything new here for readers heavily versed in the thriller genre. The idea that every single thing has been orchestrated in advance is used repeatedly to explain every coincidence in the book. The idea that yet another secret society/group/organization, whatever is behind the previous lie one character tells another but this time he or she is telling the absolute truth is a constant story telling device throughout the book. And then there is the fact that like her television namesake from long ago, Chaplin Jamie Richards can go and go with very little sleep and even less emotion.
The result is a thriller that, while not boring, certainly doesn’t thrill. This first novel in the series is enjoyable overall and certainly the frequent discussions between characters regarding religion, politics and history as well as media manipulation are interesting while working as thinly disguised information dumps. The twists and turns the adventure takes are also fairly entertaining once one accepts the amazing amount of coincidence early on the novel as well as the idea that everything has been orchestrated back through time.
While conspiracy theorists will soak all of this right up as proof of what they vehemently believe regarding various issues covered in the book including the current ongoing war in Iraq, general readers may find that this a novel that while good, isn’t great and could have been so much more if the authors had truly written something different in the genre.
S. L. Linnea
St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Kevin R. Tipple Â© 2008