This book was haunting from the moment you open it up till the end. When I received the book to review the cover intrigued me because we were in the middle of having a huge discussion on the paranormal and where ghosts fit into the bunch since many of us believe in their existence. Let's face it, as much as I adore zombies, the only ones out there are the ones that some Voudon has screwed around with using drugs and other smelly things, they just do not exist. Monsters of the non human variety (ie: HUMAN = seriel killers, hitler, the pope and NON HUMAN vampires, werewolves, ghouls) require us to dispel our belief. Ghosts are borderline because even with Supernatural reminding us how horrifying they can be, they still end up feeling more in the range of Casper variety, just does not frighten us.
As I read further I realized this was nothing to do with a ghost, in fact I can say this book states also it has to do with black magic. Well, yes sort of but again, it was more of just part of the story, the real story was more of a psychological terror fest that had you clutching whatever ever was nearby in a death grip as you followed Franco, the professor and the beautiful actress, Eva through his ride through crazyville across Europe and time. But do not be mistaken, there are ghosts in this book, but none of them are friendly and none of them go boo! The tale bounces back and forth between generations of desperation to find a secret formula that only Franco can unlock. Trickery, murder and confusion ensue that is wrought so transparently and well done by our author you cannot help but jump on the train and go along for the ride.
If you have seen Hitchcock's interpretation of John Buchan's novel The 39 Steps you will probably feel the same way I did while reading this tale. Our poor protagonist, Franco is unassuming and is minding his own business when approached by a seemingly trustworthy older gentleman who approaches him insisting his is needed because he is the last blood relative left and therefor only he can help in some mysterious project. He seems harmless enough but enter in another mysterious person, from some secret covert government agency (and in Britain it makes it all that more clandestine of a feel) who insists the gentlemen is the leader of some dangerous murdering cult and you are on the edge of your seat requiring crumpets, brandy and a cigar to continue reading.
There are a lot of tendrils to keep track of here, but it is well worth it. Nazi's, the alps (no singing in this tale though), deathbeds, blood letting, a bit of hocus-pocus and of course love.. oh wait there is also some bizarre behind the scene ponzi scams involving a very powerful and greedy man who has some underhanded dealings with someone in the Vatican, though that is a not as important to the story as it goes to the actual character development of the greedy little man... murder... mayhem, cross country chase... and Venice! What European tale would be proper and dark without having a scene or two in Venice! No there are no vampires or hidden submarines wielded by Captain Nemo here but it is rather a fun place to start this cross country European chase to escape a hitman and the police and find out what is really in the documents that are causing all this craziness in the first place! No wonder the mushroom soup did what it did to our poor Professor!
But seriously folks, this is a wonderful dark tale with a budding love interest which is continually being tested on the level of trust. There is more than one mystery that I was sure I had solved that when it was exposed only to find myself back-peddling to double check because I was sure the author screwed something up only to find out Doh, it was me missing a minor clue! It truly was like being lost in some Scottish Loch being chased by Nazi's through the fog rain and mud and wondering why everything was in black and white! (yes I know a little heavy on the Hitchcockian visuals but HEY it was like being in the middle of a REALLY good Hitchcock movie! but with WORDS instead of moving pictures!)
This is not like DaVinchi's code, this is not your normal paranormal tale, nor is the black magic the central focus point. The focus is the characters, the trust, the building of relationships that have been thrust upon you and perhaps throw a little Plato-ism in with a possible “split-apart” with our Professor and the beautiful actress. Betrayal on all sides and that older gentleman? Well... he is much darker than he seems. A couple of shoot outs and dingy hotel rooms and you will see why I keep referring back to Hitchcockian feeling stories. It is a tale of depths, there is always more than meets the eye, there is always something else going on, and even in the end... even with that last page you are left feeling full but still in wonder if it is really ever going to be through.
I recommend this book to people who are looking for a literary tale that will have them at the edge of there seats, who like a bit of intelligent twists and a little Noire / hard boiled feel to their tales sprinkled with mystery, suspense, thriller and a cast of characters that have you toasting each page turn! It was a thrill to be able to read and the review is long overdue and I am so glad that I have found this hidden gem amidst the philistine copy cat stories out there. It is well worth the buy and read!