Following his debut novel, The Eurasians (2017), Don Peter delves into his fascination with religious history for a thriller heavy on biblical lore and light on adventuring.
The story toggles between the past and present. After an introduction set in ancient Arabia, the author introduces us to Jason Bryden, an archeologist who, readers learn late in the story, “had always dreamed of being like Indiana Jones” but seems too loquacious to be saddled with a whip when he can lecture instead.
When Jason’s employer, the enigmatic Emperor Constantine Foundation, interrupts Jason’s research in Jordan, he grudgingly returns to Maryland, to answer to his boss, Dr. Adam Clark, who condemns the trajectory of Jason’s work. What unravels is a byzantine mythos where the goal is finding a so-called “magic bullet,” some ambiguous revelation that will unite all Christian faiths.
The narrative offers potentially page-turning elements: Jason discovers a mentor was killed in a mysterious accident, while another Muslim scholar and close friend soon meets a bad end. There’s also a slow-burn romance between Jason and blonde beauty Mary Townsend. Meanwhile, a former ISIS assassin aims to take Dr. Bryden off the playing field for good.
The problem is that the novel’s central conceit is vexing: When Jason “ponders” historical accounts, it sparks rambling, esoteric yarns about historical figures ranging from the ancient Mayans to biblical icons like Noah and Moses, jolting readers out of the story.
It’s a shame, because the cast is solid. Jason’s champion is mysterious Senator Rosemary Kimmel, whose motivations are opaque, while the archeologist also tangles with figures like a Russian with a mysterious past and an FBI agent who’s clearly compromised.
Barring some grammatical missteps, Peter’s writing is earnest, but the story is convoluted, and even those with a comprehensive knowledge of comparative religions will be disappointed with the lackluster action. Overall, the sum of the novel’s parts never quite adds up to a satisfying and suspenseful read.