The Alchemist’s Key by Scott Mariani
Where there’s Hope there’s trouble…
A former elite member of the SAS, Ben Hope is tortured by a tragedy from his past and now devotes his life to rescuing kidnapped children. But when Ben is recruited to locate an ancient manuscript which could save a dying child, he embarks on the deadliest quest of his life.
The document is alleged to contain the formula for the elixir of life, discovered by the brilliant alchemist Fulcanelli decades before. But it soon becomes apparent that others are hunting this most precious of treasures – for far more evil ends.
It seems that everyone – from the Nazis during WW2 and powerful Catholic organisation Gladius Domini – want to uncover the secrets of immortality.
Teaming up with American scientist Dr Roberta Ryder, the trail leads them from Paris to the ancient Cathar strongholds of the Languedoc, where an astonishing secret has lain hidden for centuries…
Last year I read both of Scott G. Mariani’s Vampire Federation novels Uprising and The Cross. After I had finished reading them I discovered that he writes thrillers as well, under the name Scott Mariani. I guess the G. is important when it comes to writing horror? I’m kidding, I realise it’s just an easy way to differentiate between the genres an author chooses to write in the same way Iain (M.) Banks does. I enjoyed both the horror novels, they are well worth checking out, so thought I would give his first thriller a whirl.
Ben Hope has all the hallmarks of a classic hero, highly trained and highly motivated he is driven to succeed at all costs. It was nice to see that he wasn’t one hundred percent perfect though. As elements of Ben’s backstory are revealed, the flaws in his character start to show through. There is a tortured soul existing just beneath Hope’s ice-cold exterior. Ben is an engaging lead, a man of direct action, but also a thoughtful soul
When reading ‘The Vampire Federation’ novels, I always found myself thinking of Marinari’s writing in terms of movies that I have seen and the same is true here. The Alchemist’s Secret is a full on faced-paced action thriller. So fast paced in fact that I rattled through the entire four hundred and sixty six pages in a couple of sittings. Once the action starts, it doesn’t let up till the last page. Car chases, knife fights, killers obsessed with medieval torture and the elixir of life. I ask you what’s not to love?
The blurb on the back of the book mentions the likes of Dan Brown and Bourne, and I can certainly see the similarities. I think I prefer Mariani’s writing over Brown’s though. I’ve always felt that Dan Brown’s work suffers because it is stuffed to the gills with pages and pages of exposition. Mariani is far more economical in his text and I warmed to it more because of that.
Is The Alchemist’s Secret classic literature? No. Will it change my life? Highly unlikely. Does it entertain? Oh hell yeah. Mariani writes novels that are genuinely exciting, and he does so with a great deal of flair. I think it’s a simple enough equation to understand – thrillers should be thrilling. From my perspective this author’s writing delivers exactly that.
The Alchemist’s Secret is published by Avon Books and is available now. There are also another five titles featuring Ben Hope with another due for release in the future. I had a lot of fun with this novel and I’ll be checking out the other novels soon.