My best laid plans to improve my reading habits went spectacularly awry in Rhodes. The copy of Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers that I thought I had stuffed into my bag turned out to be the very same copy of Great Expectations (damn those uniform Vintage editions) that I had read in the Cape Verde Islands earlier this year.
So having demolished my copies of Empire, Mojo and Uncut I borrowed this off one of my travelling companions.
This is yet another of those ancient artefact coveted by the Nazis mysteries. In this case it’s the Crown of Isis, which is looted from the Soviet siege of Berlin. The crown is reputed to confer eternal life on the possessor when sacrifices are made at auspicious moments. Problem is during the crown’s liberation at the hands of two of Himmler’s SS art thieves, the Eye of Isis (a diamond bigger than the Koh-i-noor) becomes separated from the crown rendering it ineffectual. Back in the present ritualistic murders are carried out on relatives of one of the looters, with the eye of Isis carved into the victim’s foreheads. Someone is trying to reunite the two parts of artefact.
Enough of that,the bulk of the story concerns the efforts of a New York detective to solve the murders, with the aid of London art dealer (and like Rankin’s Inspector Rebus a failed SAS recruit) Jaime Saintclair. Along the way we meet Nazis, Neo-Nazis, Latvian War criminals, a secret order of martial arts fighting nuns dedicated to Isis and the Russian mafia. While a lot of these concepts are common to various Indiana Jones movies (Hell the Nazis just make such good villains, don’t they?), I’m sure I have come across the jewel separated from artefact idea in an old Fu Manchu story I read many years ago. Bearing in mind that it’s virtually impossible for any writer to be completely original, I could forgive all this if the book was well written, but in my opinion, it really isn’t. The characters are completely one-dimensional, many of the twists and turns in the plot were completely pointless and the denouement highly predictable. There’s also a bit too much concentration on sadistic and gruesome violence.
Apparently this is the second Saintclair mystery with a Nazi occult object, but I don’t think I will be seeking the other out.