The Doomsday Project (2009)
The Heretic’s Treasure (2009)
I previously reviewed Scott Mariani’s earlier Ben Hope novels “The Alchemist’s Secret” (2007) and “The Mozart Conspiracy” (2008) and in an attempt to catch up (there are now 11 novels in this series together with a couple of novellas here are my thoughts on the next two. So far Ben has faced near disaster linked to the work the alchemist Fulcanelli and the composer Wolfgang Amadeus in two outlandish but enjoyable plots.
“The Doomsday Project” might be moving towards greater realism but perhaps is not as much fun. Hope has given up finding and rescuing kidnap victims and has developed ambitions to become a vicar (!) This seems to be as a result of being involved in too many tragedies and at the beginning of this novel we find him re-embarking on the Oxford theology degree he gave up on many years before. He reconnects with his tutor, a family friend, whose daughter has gone missing in Corfu. Hope is reluctant to return so soon to the life he thought he had abandoned until circumstances force him to do so. The daughter has discovered something that challenges prophecies in Revelations regarding the End of The World. Cue the American End Of Time evangelists who will resort to anything to ensure their Doomsday theories will not be challenged. The plot feels (slightly) more plausible, the villains less cartoonish but perhaps the actions sequences are more outlandish, and there are plenty of action sequences in this book. All in all, third book into the series and the standard is being maintained although it does look like Hope will never get that Theology degree!
The follow-up to this is “The Heretic’s Treasure” (2009). This felt a little less quirky than some of the others in the series. Ben has (surprise surprise!) abandoned his Theological studies and seemingly more fittingly has set up a business to train those involved in hostage situations based on a large property he has bought in France. Not that he is there for long, however, as an old Army Colonel who Hope feels beholden to (a life-saving incident) wants help as his Egyptologist son has been killed on the brink of a big discovery. Unfortunately for all, terrorists with destruction on their mind are also close to the same discovery. Exactly who can be trusted twists and turns as Ben finds himself getting ever deeper. It feels, for the most part, a little more serious, with a little less adventure, a little more hardware and with a usual share of big set pieces and people being in the right place at the right time. Hope finds love again (very quickly, it must be said) but is it all too good to be true? I do really quite enjoy these very readable books and there is nothing in either of these books which will put me off selecting the next one in the series.
Scott Mariani’s Ben Hope books are published in the UK by Harper Collins (Avon)