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'The Babylon Rite' is a thriller novel by Tom Knox (aka journalist and author Sean Thomas).I bought this from 'The Works' a while back as part of a 3 for £5 deal, but the book sat on my shelf for the best part of a year before I started reading it. This is partly because I had so many other books I wanted to read first, and partly because I didn't have really high expectations anyway.
Journalist Adam Blackwood witnesses the supposed suicide of a respected Templar historian in Edinburgh. However, he soon meets Nina, the scholar's daughter, who believes that that her father was murdered and wants Adam to help her find out what really happened. Adam, eager for a story, agrees to help Nina, but his murder mystery soon turns into a journey across the Templar sites of Europe.
Meanwhile in Peru, anthropologist Jess Silverton is digging up the remains of the Moche, one of the most brutal ancient civilizations in the world. But with the excavation of the Moche comes people determined to silence Jess over the secret of their horrific practices. As it turns out, Adam and Jess's adventures, together with a string of graphic suicides occuring across London, are linked by a dark secret in the deep of the Amazon...
I did enjoy 'The Babylon Rite' a bit more than I thought I would. The story is well-paced and I liked the use of interlinking stories which lead to a joint conclusion. The chapters alternate the story between Jess, Adam & Nina, and the police investigation into the suicides lead by DC Ibsen (although this part disappears late into the novel to focus on the first two). This helped keep my interest throughout the book as chapters tended to end on a tense cliff-hanger, so I tended to read on past the next few chapters to see what happens next to certain characters.
The book has a very interesting setting and I liked how various cultures past and present become interlinked by a secret which several people are determined to keep quiet about. On the other hand, I felt that the author's writing style is unusually worded, especially concerning dialogue. Sometimes I felt that the dialogue sounded weird and unnatural whilst I was reading it, as if written more like a television script without any prompters. An example is that Nina keeps saying 'Ach', which I know is like a verbal tic that shows she's Scottish, but the way it is included in sentences just makes me stop and scratch my head. Furthermore, there are a lot of graphic scenes in the book, especially regarding the suicides. I know that the deaths are meant to shock the reader and connect this part of the story with the Moche people in Peru, but some scenes are so sickening that they almost put me off finishing the book. Maybe people more used to graphic deaths and violence in books will be nonplussed, but this book is definitely not for the faint-hearted.
The characters are okay but I felt they needed some more depth to them. Adam is a journalist and comes across as insightful and clear-headed, albeit with anger management issues. Likewise Nina is headstrong and the two are a good match, although I did feel that their growing relationship came out of nowhere just after the halfway point. Meanwhile Jess is a strong woman who has to overcome a lot of difficulties during her excavation in Peru which give her a lot of depth. There is a plot point concerning her which dictates her actions towards the end of the book, although the course she eventually takes does seem very unbelievable and lets down the story's ending.
'The Babylon Rite' is a decent book for anyone who likes standard controversial thriller. It has some interesting plot elements and fairly well-written characters, but at some points can be too graphic and occasionally sloppy. The book was compelling enough that I wanted to see how it would end, but it won't be something that I will read again.
At the time of writing, you can find 'The Babylon Rite' for £5.59 on paperback and £2.99 on Kindle (both prices on Amazon).