Book Review: The Lucifer Code by Charles Brokaw

Hi all…

The scholarly adventurer is not a new construct in popular media and fiction. Though Indiana Jones may be one of my favorite smart heroes, many other writers created similar characters long before George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Jules Verne explored huge worlds beyond the everyday while Arthur Conan Doyle focused on the little clues of the everyday that we all leave behind (just ask the writers behind the successful CSI series, The Mentalist, NCIS and others). More recently, Dan Brown brought symbologist Robert Langdon to the fore in his wildly successful book The Da Vinci Code, mixing clues from the past with events in the present.

So when I saw the book The Lucifer Code by Charles Brokaw, I couldn’t help but see a connection between the title and Dan Brown’s work. But it was the addition of “Lucifer” that intrigued me. How would the Prince of Lies be worked into a Da Vinci Code-type story structure?

Though Brokaw’s debut – The Atlantis Code – was released last year, I somehow missed it. Though The Lucifer Code builds on the first book and includes references to earlier adventures, it wasn’t required reading before hand. What I found was that the adventures of linguist Thomas Lourds managed to provide a fun rollercoaster ride that starts quickly and doesn’t let up to the end.

Lourds, an older gentleman fresh from his discovery of Atlantis, is heading to Istanbul, Turkey to speak at Istanbul University about his field of linguistics. While still at the airport, he’s approached by a beautiful woman. And, being a bit of a womanizer, Lourds is flattered by the attention at first. He’s subsequently caught off guard when she aids in his kidnapping. Lourds finds himself in the company of terrorists leaving a trail of bodies in their wake. And when the group eventually descends into the catacombs beneath the city, their leader presents him with a book.

To stay alive, he must decipher the code contained within and lead his kidnappers to a lost scroll written by John of Patmos – the author of the Book of Revelation in the Bible. But if Lourds succeeds, will he bring about Armageddon or will he stop one?

There are numerous twists and turns to the book, but it follows a traditional pattern. The hero is thrust into a conspiracy that he must unravel along the journey to prevent an evil plot. This one involves terrorists, scholars, and the White House, so it ranks right up there with Angels and Demons, in which Dan Brown used a similar structure. The action in the The Lucifer Code hardly takes a breath and it eventually involves the Prince of Lies in a war in the Middle East. Unfortunately, the conclusion was a bit far fetched even for me.

I have to say I enjoyed The Lucifer Code, but that it will be quickly forgotten. It’s the kind of book that would be perfect for a long flight or business trip. But though Brokaw’s style was fun, I don’t know that I’ll seek out the next book (or the first one) telling more of Thomas Lourds’ adventures.

If you’re looking for a lively book for the plane, definitely check out The Lucifer Code by Charles Brokaw. But if you’re looking for more than a race around the world against the Devil, I’d look for something else.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up these books at Barnes & Noble…

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Book Review: Jason Dark: Ghost Hunter — Demon’s Night by Guido Henkel

Hi all!

Have you ever heard of a “dime novel“? How about a “penny dreadful”? These were short books of pulp fiction popular in the 19th and 20th centuries in the United States and Britain. Each small booklet had a story or part of a series that was inexpensive, costing much less (5 or 10 cents) than a full sized book did during the same time period. Many of these during the 19th century focused on the “wild west” and the exploits of sensational characters such as Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley.

Well, evidently they’re making a comeback! Starting in January 2010, a new series written by Guido Henkel merges the feel of Sherlock Holmes tales with the monster-hunting mentality of TV’s Supernatural. Set on the streets of Victorian England, it seems London is in need of a hero and “Jason Dark: Ghost Hunter” is there to fill the bill.

Demon’s Night is the first in the series, introducing our brave hero. Dark comes from a long line of ghost hunters and he is the “Geisterjäger” of his generation. Armed with a magical sword, Dark hunts for the things in the dark preying on his fellow man. And in this adventure, we find him following the trail of a number of bizarre deaths along the waterfront… each victim somehow drained of bodily fluids and left looking like a mummified corpse.

Along the way, he saves the life of Siu Lin, the daughter of Chinese immigrants who are tragically killed by a demonic entity. Dark and Lin stalk the streets and graveyards of London seeking clues as to the creature’s origins and looking for a way to stop it’s reign of terror…

The book itself is 62 pages and a saddle-stitch binding, basically a stack of 31 8.5″ x 11″ pages folded in half length-wise. It feels much like a small magazine, making it easy to slip in a briefcase or purse to take along for light reading.

It honestly took me a little while to get into the groove as I was reading Demon’s Night. The style aims to be like that of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with a deep feel for the streets, attitudes, and locations of Victorian England. And occasional grammar or spelling gaffes may have been intentional to keep with the writing of that era. But each time I found one (there are a few), it yanked me out of the story and I had to fight to get back into it again. (Update: Heard from Henkel that the spelling issues have been resolved in later copies of the book.)

That said, I felt it really hit a stride about halfway through after Dark and Siu Lin start working together. The camaraderie helped the story, setting, and characters gel more the further I went. It definitely hit me as a fun pulp fiction style adventure that has many avenues to explore in the “monster hunter” realm.

If you’re looking for a quick story in the vein of a lighter Sherlock Holmes-style adventure, I’d recommend you pick up Henkel’s Jason Dark: Ghost Hunter — Demon’s Night. It’s available in hardcopy for a small fee, and on Amazon for the Kindle, but you can find it online at JasonDark.com for free. I have the next story – Theater of Vampires – waiting here to read and will be interested to see where Jason Dark goes next!

This review first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Check out JasonDark.com for more details or get the hardcopy version from Barnes & Noble below!

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Book Review: Sherlock Holmes in America edited by Martin H. Greenberg, Jon L. Lellenberg, and Daniel Stashower

Hi all!

In 1887, Sherlock Holmes began to stalk the literary world. He lived at 221B Baker Street, London, and ran a private detective agency. He was brilliant, eccentric, and without equal. After a few years he was joined by Dr. Watson, both as a right-hand man as a chronicler. Created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes was featured in four novels and fifty-six short stories. And I think it’s safe to say that Holmes had an affectation for the Americans starting from his very first story — “A Study in Scarlet” — when he told of an adventure in Utah.

And even today, Holmes has left an indelible impression upon the world at large, including American shores. In March 2009, Sherlock Holmes in America was published as a collection of 16 original short mystery stories featuring the famous detective. The collection was edited by Martin H. Greenberg, Jon L. Lellenberg, and Daniel Stashower. Some of the writers included in the collection are Robert Pohle, Loren D. Estleman, Victoria Thompson, Gillian Linscott, Carolyn Wheat, and Jon L. Breen.

Timing for this collection is just about perfect, as the marketing starts to ratchet up later in the year for the upcoming Guy Ritchie movie. Simply titled Sherlock Holmes, with Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Dr. Watson, the movie will release on Christmas Day 2009 and I know I’m intrigued to see it. Though this is definitely not the first time Holmes will grace the big screen, it will be the first time in since around 1946.

As a relative newbie to the Sherlock Holmes stories, I figured Sherlock Holmes in America would be a great way to get my feet wet. And I was definitely correct. Now I will have to go back to the original source material and start my way through the great detective’s many adventures.

Each of the authors had something different to bring to the table. Holmes, Watson, and even Mycroft (Sherlock’s brother) appear in these adventures, but it was the many other characters I found fascinating.

In “The Adventure of the Coughing Dentist” by Loren D. Estleman, Holmes and Watson encountered Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, famous for the gunfight at the OK Corral. In the story, Holmes and Watson helped Earp clear the name of his good friend Holliday from a crime he didn’t commit.

In Gillian Linscott’s story “The Case of Colonel Crockett’s Violin,” the dynamic duo help clear up a mystery surrounding the origin of two violins said to have been owned by Davy Crockett at the Alamo.

And in Bill Crider’s story “The Adventure of the White City,” the duo help Buffalo Bill Cody avoid an unfortunate incident with Sitting Bull’s cabin. A group of Native Americans wished to destroy the cabin in an act of defiance for Sitting Bull’s compliance in the Custer massacre. Annie Oakley also appears in the story.

It was great to see these two iconic detectives appear in the context of the history of America during his lifetime. I thoroughly enjoyed each of the stories and definitely need to start reading Doyle’s original stories before Guy Ritchie’s movie appears at the end of the year.

If you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan, it’s hard to go wrong with Sherlock Holmes in America. Pick up a copy and enjoy these great adventures!

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up a copy of Sherlock Holmes in America at Amazon or your favorite local bookstore!

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