Mystery/Thriller Book Reviews
The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin ThomasonDell, July, 2005
Paperback, 450 pages
A mysterious 15th century manuscript called the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili is the focus of this intellectual thriller/coming of age story set at Princeton. Seniors Tom Sullivan, Paul Harris, Charlie Freeman and Gil Rankin are all dealing with the pressures of impending graduation and trying to find a place in the real world. But Paul can think only of his thesis on the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili: he has become obsessed with discovering its secrets. The manuscript has puzzled scholars for centuries. Full of hidden codes and ciphers, the manuscript may hold the key to a legendary treasure. Tom's father spent his life trying to puzzle out its secrets, so for him to become friends with someone as obsessed as his father is disturbing for Tom, to say the least. The more they dig into the mysteries of the manuscript, the stranger things get for the four friends. Murder, danger and intrigue surround them. But being college students, they also find plenty of time for traditional pursuits such as laser tag, attending the traditional winter party where the sophomores go sans clothing and pursuing romance.
The book is simply jam-packed with riddles, codes and clues and puzzles. In fact, the story nearly grinds to a halt when the narrator embraces his inner geek with a passion. The action picks up considerably towards the last third of the book, fortunately. The coming of age elements and the endless flashbacks are a drag on the story: some judicious editing would have helped immeasurably. Those who delight in endless code-breaking will enjoy this distant cousin to the much more exciting The Da Vinci Code.
Solomon vs. Lord by Paul LevineBantam, October, 2005
Paperback, 546 pages
Prosecutor Victoria Lord met flamboyant defense attorney Steve Solomon in court, just before he infuriated her so much with his arguments that she wouldn't shut up when ordered to, and the judge threw them both in jail for contempt of court. When they finally get out of jail, Victoria mouths off again in court which causes her boss to fire her. Now jobless, Victoria reluctantly agrees to take a case with Steve. The pair agree to defend wealthy Katriana Barkdale for the murder of her husband Charles. While the widow cries crocodile tears over her wealthy husband's death, Victoria gets to know Steve a little better. She represents him in trying to gain custody of his autistic nephew who was physically abused by him mother. But the more she gets involved with Steve Solomon, the more complicated Victoria's life becomes.
Paul Levine who is best known for his Jake Lasseter crime novels and his Supreme Court thriller 9 Scorpions hasn't written a novel in seven years, instead concentrating on his writing and producing for television. Levine knows pacing, character and dialogue: Solomon vs. Lord is a laugh out loud funny legal thriller that crackles with wit and energy.
--Claire E. White
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