Mystery Books for Sale

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by Bill Napier
St Martin's Paperbacks, August 2005
368 pages
ISBN: 0312936680

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Sir Toby Tebbit approaches antiquarian bookseller Harry Blake, in Lincoln, to authenticate some papers he has just received as an inheritance from a family member in Jamaica he never knew existed.

The journal has been written in code by a young cabin boy, James Ogilvie, who had run away from his home in Scotland and found himself in London with no money. He signed on to a vessel that was part of a secret expedition to the New World.

When Harry goes out to Sir Toby's house, several days after receiving the journal, he finds that Tebbit has been murdered. Harry had earlier refused to turn the journal over to 'Cassandra' who had offered him 100,000 for it. Tebbit's ten-year-old daughter Debbie asks Harry to continue to attempt to break the code and find out why the journal cost her father his life. Harry enlists the aid of Zola Kahn, marine historian in Greenwich, to try to figure out what is in the journal that would lead to murder.

As they translate the journal, a fascinating trail of conspiracies is revealed. There was something on that ship that a certain Elizabethan cabal felt was worth a dangerous trip across the Atlantic. The trail leads back to the Crusades and then forward to this journey of 1585 and the Queen's astronomer and spy, John Dee, the original 007, and then to certain religious fanatics in the present day.

Although this book has been compared to THE DA VINCI CODE, it is a much more believable tale. The SPLINTERED ICON could have existed. We are not faced with secret societies but rather a secret mission, and an attempt to change the calendar. On the way, we learn how the Elizabethans managed to navigate across the ocean with no clocks to help them determine longitude, and the horrendous conditions aboard the ships of the time. All the while Harry, Debbie and Zola try to find the secret of the journal while staying one step ahead of their pursuers.

This is an exciting thriller, written by an astronomer. The three modern day characters are well drawn, but somehow not as interesting to this reviewer as the Elizabethan tale combining intrigue, religion and science. The book was first published in England in 2003 as SHATTERED ICON. The reason for the title change escapes me.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, October 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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