The Alchemist’s Secret – Scott Mariani (2007)
The Mozart Conspiracy- Scott Mariani (2008)
These two novels are the first in Mariani’s series featuring Ben Hope – a specialist in finding the lost and the kidnapped. There are now 11 Ben Hope novels together with 2 novellas so I have a fair bit of catching up to do. Scott has also begun a very different series featuring the Vampire Federation, these he writes as Scott G. Mariani. I have a couple of these on my shelves but have not got round to them yet.
Scott Mariani is a British author (born in Scotland, now living in Wales) and a quick look at his website sees comparisons being made to James Bond, the Bourne books and even “Dan Brown on Steroids”. He is one of the leading lights of the adventure genre novel.
In our introduction to Ben Hope, “The Alchemist’s Secret” it is the elixir of life that is being searched for. This is to help a rich man’s dying grand-daughter. The secret of this, it is believed, is contained in the lost documents of the alchemist Fulcanelli, a real-life genius shrouded in much mystery who disappeared in the 1920’s and whose whole life seems tailor-made for this kind of novel. Ben Hope gets entangled with the myths surrounding alchemy and the Cathars (a European Christian movement active particularly between the 12th and 14th Centuries.) He encounters corrupt archbishops and Christian Fundamentalism in an enjoyable (and yes, far-fetched) novel. Mariani is effective in keeping his plot-lines simple, helping readability and keeping it all entertaining without feeling the need to bombard us with multiple plot strands which can make a significant number of books in this genre a frustrating read.
The standard is maintained in “The Mozart Conspiracy” (2008). Here a musician friend of Hope’s is murdered whilst researching the circumstances around the death of Mozart. Hope joins forces with the man’s sister (and an old flame of his) to find out what happened. Here we have to face ritual killings, child kidnapping and The Masons. It moves well and once again reads easily. Hope’s character feels more rounded in this second novel and he is ably assisted by some new involving characters, especially Leigh Llewellyn -opera star and sister of the murdered Oliver; Kinksi, the police officer who wants the case reopened and his daughter, Clara. The “baddies” are somewhat stereotypical, but it all romps along well. I might put it slightly ahead of “The Alchemist’s Secret”, mainly because of the characterisation. This bodes well for the series.
Scott Mariani’s Ben Hope books are published in the UK by Harper Collins (Avon)