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ALTAR OF BONES
by Philip Carter
Simon & Schuster, Ltd., May 2011
640 pages
12.99 GBP
ISBN: 0857202065


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

As conspiracy thrillers go, this one does pretty much what it says on the tin. It's a fast-pace romp from San Francisco to Europe to Siberia following lawyer ZoŽ Dmitroff's attempts to stay alive while she works out who she can trust and attempts to solve the mystery of the altar of bones, a mystery that appears to be inextricably linked with both a rare Russian icon and two of the most iconic conspiracy theories of all time.

The story starts in Siberia in 1939, where Lena Orlova and her lover are planning to escape from a Soviet prison camp. They succeed, and take refuge in a cave hidden behind a waterfall, which contains a secret that Lena and generations of women before her have sworn to protect. The mantle of the Keepers, as they are known, passes to ZoŽ Dmitroff from a grandmother whose existence she had been unaware of before her brutal murder and ZoŽ soon ends up on the run from the same killer.

ZoŽ is probably the best thing about the book. She's brave and resourceful without being overdone, although she does have a tendency to act first and think later, especially when throwing herself off a barge into the River Seine. Knowing who to trust is her main problem and in that respect, her growing relationship with ex-Special Operations soldier, Ry O'Malley, whose brother died as a result of the same secret that now threatens ZoŽ's life, is one of the more interesting parts of the story.

There's more than a whiff of marketing hype surrounding this book but at the end of the day, the biggest question for me is probably that of why a best selling international author, so we're told, has chosen to write under a pseudonym. THE ALTAR OF BONES isn't bad enough to warrant the cloak of anonymity, but nor do I think it's good enough to live up to its billing, although if you like Dan Brown, I don't think you'll find this too much of a disappointment. Unfortunately, the weakest part was the ending, which let down an otherwise serviceable but largely undistinguished story. My guess is that the author is a woman choosing this route into what is still a largely male dominated area.

ß Linda Wilson is a writer, and retired solicitor, with an interest in archaeology and cave art, who now divides her time between England and France.

Reviewed by Linda Wilson, June 2011

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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