For fans of Dan Brown here is a book that plays it pretty close to Brown’s winning formula and because of that it works really quite well. A stolen bejewelled breastplate turns up in an American museum and a female photographer witnesses its theft and a murder. This leads to her teaming up with a visiting English writer who specialises in pieces on Ancient History and is, luckily, ex MI5. They discover that this breastplate provides protection from the sheer power of the Ark of the Covenant. The theft is carries out by a group of American Christian fundamentalists who believe they are carrying out the prophecies of Ezekiel and from then on it’s a race to see who can discover the hiding place of the Ark of the Covenant. Thankfully, this book is spared some of the globetrotting which can make some books of this genre implausible and a little tiresome (and that includes Dan Brown’s “Inferno” which at times resembled a travel guide). Locations here are restricted and characters and side-plots are kept to a minimum which drives the narrative forward without too much switching around. I can certainly feel alienated if I am thrown from location to location and from one set of characters to another in too rapid a succession. Characterisation is quite good but in quite a few places I found speech (especially between the two main protagonists) a bit clunky, oddly written and inauthentic. I do have to point out there also a couple of excruciatingly written sex scenes, but the main plot is, although somewhat ludicrous, really quite entertaining.
Stones Of Fire was published in the UK by Penguin in 2009