Ah, now this is what an adventure story is supposed to be like. It's got action, a handsome genius hero, beautiful women, ruthless bad guys, a secret society within the Vatican, gunplay, sex, and a lost world. If you enjoy Indiana Jones movies or even the cheesy recent TNT Librarian movies with Noah Wyle, you'll like this book. Fans of The Da Vinci Code will also like it.
Thomas Lourds is a world-famous linguistics professor, called to Alexandria, Egypt, by the BBC to participate in a TV series on ancient artifacts. Leslie Crane is the host, and during a filming session she hands Lourds a bell to identify. He is embarrassed to admit he can't read the writing inscribed on the outside. While he is pondering the language, the bad buys storm into the studio and start shooting. They take the bell, but luckily Lourds had snapped photos of it with his digital camera so at least he has something to work with. Meanwhile, in Russia, another professor is trying to decode the inscription on an ancient cymbal, only to lose her life over it by those same bad guys. The woman's sister turns out to be a policewoman more than capable of taking care of herself, and who teams up with Lourds, Leslie, and a BBC cameraman to find the men who took the instruments so she can exact vengeance for her sister's murder.
While the chase is on across Russia, Germany, and Nigeria, Father Sebastian is supervising an archaeological dig near Cadiz, Spain, where satelite images show an underwater formation resembling Plato's description of Atlantis. The secret Society of Quirinus, operating from the Vatican, believes sacred texts were hidden in Atlantis, and they are sworn to protect those texts because of the power they might unleash should anyone read them and gain the knowledge therein. That knowledge, after all, was what caused God to destroy Atlantis. Cardinal Murani is part of that society, but his true aim is to find the texts and use the power for himself. He believes he will be Pope someday, and he cannot wait to wield the power of the sacred texts.
Murani is bankrolling the guys trying to hunt down Lourds and his team, but someone close to Lourds is somehow leaking their every move. Lourds also is being pursued by the two women in his company, so he feels trapped on all sides. The search for the bell and cymbal and the search for Atlantis collide in a spectacular climax.
This book is well-written with plenty of suspense and blood. You'll get some history and liguistic lessons from Professor Lourds, but he explains things simply and his enthusiasm shines brightly. He is not immune to the temptation of powerful knowledge from the inscriptions inside the Atlantean caves, but he also has a strong will to live and to preserve the lives of his companions. The bad guys are ever-present and rather flat in character, but that's what bad guys in suspense novels are usually like. You should read with a healthy suspension of belief because some details may not add up completely. I was constantly wondering how Lourds managed to hang on to his laptop and the BBC guy his camera in all their hasty exits from hotels, guns blazing behind them. However, the plot is satisfying and interesting, and the end is open for another adventure involving Professor Lourds. I definitely will be waiting for the next installment.
Other books involving archaeology and ancient secrets:
The Source by James Michener
Labyrinth by Kate Mosse
The Grand Complication by Allen Kurzweil