It's just as well I don't judge a book by its cover, as reading the back of ''The Demon Code'' was not a good start. For one thing, it's a conspiracy thriller with a title that evokes comparisons with an over-rated bestseller from a few years ago. Then there is the fact that Alex Blake is a pseudonym for another author and, as Stephen King once said of writing as Richard Bachman: "If it was any good, the guy would have put his real name on it. If he lied about his name, the book must suck...''
Inside, things are better for the reader, but less so for former Detective Sergeant Heather Kennedy. She's just punched the first and only client of her private security business, who was supposed to be her link to other clients. Someone from her past, Emil Gassan, keeps calling to talk about a case she handled while she was with the Police and which resulted in her being thrown out of the force. She's also struggling to cope with the fact of her father's death a year previously, as well as failing to move on from catching her partner Isobel cheating on her.
When she does finally take Gassan's call, he has a job for her. Recently appointed as curator of the British Museum's archives, he inherited a strange situation. The archives suffered a break in that resulted in no apparent theft, with the only clue a bloodied knife that cannot be matched to a victim. Digging deeper unearths a book of prophecies that are starting to be fulfilled and a group of killers determined to prevent anyone slowing this process. As Kennedy gets more involved and her life becomes endangered, it appears she is being watched and, on occasion, assisted, without ever knowing why or who by.
Despite, or maybe because of, my reservations, this is a thoroughly enjoyable book. Like Jan Wallentin's "Strindberg's Star", there is a secret the author is determined to reveal little by little. The characters may be following clues from a book, but they're not the kind that can be followed by the reader, as we never have the same picture as them, so you're never left disappointed by how simple some of the answers turned out to be. Indeed, the one clue I felt able to take a guess at, my guess was out by more than 3000 miles. Part of the fun here is the depth of the mystery, as just when it looks like it was about to be solved, there was another facet added and the story continues.
Adam Blake, whoever is really is, certainly knows how to write a gripping story. The pace is relentless virtually from the first page and even when the characters are taking a moment of down time, it's not for a moment boring as you always retain the sense of anticipation that something is about to happen. In many ways, the story comes at you more like an action film, where you know you're only moments away from the point at which the bullets will start flying again. It's a lengthy book, but such is the pace of the action that the pages turn quickly and the end is upon you before you realise it.
One thing that helps with this is how the characters interact. With two factions that have been reluctantly forced to team up, there is some resentment and much verbal sniping between the two sides. Whilst the characters may never come to life in full physical detail, the language they use with each other gives a good indication of their personalities and helps the reader draw a picture of what they are like, with what they look like being secondary.
There were a couple of minor annoyances that took the edge off the book slightly. There were a couple of slightly predictable moments towards the end, using similar clichés to those used in the action films I've already mentioned. There was also an apparent need to tie things off too neatly at the end, resulting in a slightly twee ending that didn't seem to entirely fit with all that had come before. With this being Adam Blake's second Heather Kennedy novel, there were also references back to previous events that left you wondering about the previous novel as much as about this one. But these things certainly didn't spoil the book in any important way and it's an exciting read and with prices from as low as 1p plus postage from the Amazon Marketplace or 99p plus postage from eBay, it's one that won't excite your bank manager if you decide to give the excitement of the book a try.
This is a slightly amended version of a review previously published under my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk