Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Lost Throne by Chris Kuzneski


Carved into the towering cliffs of central Greece, the Metéora monasteries are all but inaccessible. Holy Trinity is the most isolated, its sacred brotherhood the guardians of a secret that has been protected for centuries.

In the dead of night, the sanctity of the holy retreat is shattered by an elite group of warriors carrying ancient weapons. One by one, they hurl the silent monks from the cliff-top to the rocks below — the holy men taking their secret to their graves….

Halfway across Europe, Richard Byrd fears for his life. He has uncovered the location of a magnificent treasure. But there are those who are dedicated to protecting it, and they will stop at nothing to prevent its discovery.

Hoping to save himself, Byrd contacts two colleagues,Jonathon Payne and David Jones, and begs for their help. The duo rushes to his aid and quickly find themselves caught in an adventure that will change their lives forever.

I present you: a quest novel.

One of my absolute favourites novel types, by one of my favourite authors. Chris Kuzneski has snuck into the adventure and UK market with two of his other books, The Sign of the Cross and Sword of God, both of which I own, slightly worse for the wear and much read. Kuzneski's writing has proved to be hugely popular here in the UK and he's been here to take part in the Crime Writing Festival (kicks herself for not going). Read snippets of news in Kuzneski-Land here.

The boys, as I fondly refer to Jonathan Payne and his colleague and good friend, David Jones, reprise their roles as adventurers (one time military men with Payne being the leader of an elite special forces team) in this non-stop action novel about missing treasure, where Chi does indeed mark the spot, eccentric historians, deadly warriors who cling to an ancient way of life, crazy Kafka drinking Finns, an Interpol agent and mysterious Greek Orthodox Monks.

The reason why the two main characters work so well (this being Payne and Jones) is that their banter is such fun to read. The dialogue had me on more than one occasion laughing out loud. They form a good unit, complimenting each other’s strengths whilst working towards negating their weaknesses.

In this instance Jones and Payne find themselves in St Petersburg (Russia) helping Alison uncover the mystery surrounding the death of her employer Richard Byrd. I have to say that the author knows how to tease out the clues, set up scenes and create an atmosphere of Bourne-like thrill and adventure, even if you are sitting on your train commuting into work. The action moves from St Petersburg to Greece at breakneck speed as the clues are reasoned out and the next stage of the plot is revealed.

What I loved about this is that the author walks away from the now tired set-up of the Crusades, Templars, blood of Christ and Mary Magdalene, the scripture, lost scrolls in the Holy Land etc., and has found a new enigma for our seekers to hunt. It makes a brilliant change and allows other parts of history to be examined by readers who might not be as familiar with the “new” treasures being sought.
I found the history of the Lost Throne very entertaining and genuinely enjoyed how the author incorporated a well known eccentric historian, Heinrich Schliemann (he “discovered” Troy and Mycenae) who used Homer’s books as inspiration for his discoveries, into the storyline.

I am hesitant to make comparisons, but I can’t help but point out that if you like Scott Mariani, Steve Berry, (the most dreaded comparison of all) Dan Brown, Will Adams, David Gibbins and Sam Bourne, then you will thoroughly love and enjoy Chris Kuzneski’s The Lost Throne.

It is a well researched novel and it takes an interesting (and I hope fictional) view of an ancient warrior society in Greece. I found that the author treated the monastic society in the Aegean with great care, never vilifying them, which made a nice and interesting change from a reader’s point of view, leaving you with enough information in the novel, to make your own mind up. I really am looking forward to the next novel as there will be repercussions from the end of this one to follow through. (note to author: hurry up and write!)

I would highly recommend reading The Lost Throne for good escapist fun, especially if you like your adventure stories with good dollops of history, lost treasure and a bit of conjecture. Find the author’s site here. Read an extract over here from Penguin UK who were clever enough to scoop Chris up when he first appeared on the scene.

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