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by Scott Mariani
Robert Hale, March 2007
224 pages
18.99 GBP
ISBN: 0709083017

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

My heart sinks when I see any book that looks like it's jumped on the D*****i C**e bandwagon. I mean, how many books with handsome men and women careering through France in search of ancient manuscripts and pursued by barking mad Catholics does the world need? Fortunately, though, Scott Mariani's debut novel THE FULCANELLI MANUSCRIPT turns out to be a sprightly little thriller with action on every page.

Benedict Hope is a former army officer who finds kidnapped children. But his high-octane life disguises unhappy secrets from the past. So for intensely personal reasons he's unable to turn down a seemingly impossible assignment, when super-rich Sebastian Fairfax wants him to track down an ancient manuscript that could point the way a cure for his terminally ill grand-daughter.

And it's wham-bam-thank you ma'm action from thereon in as Ben hooks up with American academic Roberta Ryder, whose work on alchemy has made her persona non grata, as they attempt to find out what happened to the mysterious Fulcanelli and his manuscript.

Ben's an intriguing hero and one who, on this evidence, should be capable of carrying a series. The characters around him, including Roberta, are less well-drawn. But hey, this is a thriller and one which would transfer nicely to the small screen with its fast-moving plot, so who's going to quibble too much about convenience characters (although the gormless police angle gets old a bit quickly).

Our heroes leave a trail of bodies all round France, but at least when they're hurt they don't leap straight up and start fighting again. And there's a neat final twist to keep the action ticking over until the last page.

In many ways there's not much new in THE FULCANELLI MANUSCRIPT, although there are some warning messages about religious fundamentalism. I did feel a wince of sympathy for Anna, the would-be writer, who has a writing block on her historical novel featuring the Cathars (would that a few published writers had had that problem!) But it's a brisk and enjoyable enough read and suggests that Scott Mariani might well be an author to watch out for.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, June 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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