The Alchemist's Secret by Scott Mariani

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The Alchemist's Secret by Scott Mariani

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Following in the footsteps of The da Vinci Code we've a book that will make a light holiday read if corrupt churchmen, a high body count and some torture with a few riddles to solve is your thing.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 486 Date: March 2008
Publisher: Avon
ISBN: 978-1847560797

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Ben Hope was a member of the SAS but now he spends his time rescuing children who have been kidnapped. When he's asked to find a manuscript which could provide a cure for a sick child he hesitates but decides that it's the right thing to do. The manuscript was written by Fulcanelli, the renowned alchemist, almost a hundred years ago and it's rumoured that it contains the formula for the elixir of life. What seems like a far-fetched quest becomes dangerous when Hope discovers that there are others in search of the manuscript.

Dan Brown has a lot to answer for. Since the commercial success of The Da Vinci Code, there's been a rash of books on a similar theme. A good and honest man accompanied by a presentable female – this time Dr Roberta Ryder who believes that there is something in alchemy – risk life, limb and reputation to solve a series of clues in the hope of finding something priceless. There's the obligatory senior Catholic churchman who doesn't feel that murder is unreasonable if it gets him what he wants, a harking back to some of the baddies of World War II and a trip through some wonderful scenery which will no doubt look great if there's a film deal. This time it's Paris and then the ancient Cathar strongholds of the Languedoc.

Hope has, of course, a dark and guilty secret in his past. Naturally, it haunts him and drives him to do what he does in the hope of redeeming himself in his own mind. He's mistrustful, which is perhaps wise when he kills readily and finds it difficult to get close to women – which might well be a blessing for the women concerned given that his occupation is riskier than most. Roberta Ryder is A Plucky Woman if occasionally a little careless about her own safety. Other characters are generally two-dimensional, but that's not a major problem as most of them are there to die.

The plot is not bad if you don't, as I did, work out exactly what the ending would be before you're 5% of the way through the book. There's a very high body count – nothing too gory but they do die and there's even a bit of torture thrown in for light relief. Coincidences happen a little too regularly and sometimes the way that the plot works out just defies belief.

I know. I'm being very picky. This book is no worse and certainly no better than hundreds of other books which will fly off airport book shop shelves this summer and if you want a light and entertaining read for the beach it might be just the book for you.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag. We also have a review of The Lost Relic by Scott Mariani.

For other books on a similar theme you might like to look at The 13th Apostle by Richard and Rachael Heller, The Crystal Skull by Manda Scott and Extraordinary People by Peter May.

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Buy The Alchemist's Secret by Scott Mariani at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Alchemist's Secret by Scott Mariani at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Alchemist's Secret by Scott Mariani at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Alchemist's Secret by Scott Mariani at


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