Penguin Books Canada was kind enough to once again send us pre-release copies of a novel, in this case the new thriller from Canadian author D.J. McIntosh an author that could give Dan Brown’s popularity a run for his money.
This is the second in her Mesopotamian Trilogy, and I will admit right now, I haven’t read the first book, but after the way this novel swept me up, I’ll be backtracking the adventure and picking up book one, The Witch of Babylon in short order.
Happily, intimate knowledge of the first book wasn’t required, and in fact broad strokes are given through the opening of the second so you know the bare minimum of what happened to feed the motivations of characters in the second, but not enough that would spoil the reading of the first novel, if like me, you missed it; except for one character’s death which of course has a huge influence on the story’s main character.
John Madison is an art dealer with a specialty in antiquities. He’s hired by an unknown benefactor to purchase a 17th century tome filled with fairy tales, and rather macabre illustrations. He’s warned of the malignant nature of the book, and warned not to open it.
Things go from bad to mysteriously worse when a man claiming to be the original author of the book steals it from Madison before he can turn it over to his client.
Financially on the hook for the book, and it’s five volumes, Madison is plunged into a globetrotting mystery as he learns that some of the stories may have been interpretations of actual events, one of them a plague tale… a plague that may have resurfaced.
In a race to find the actual plague location hidden in the book Madison crisscrosses Europe, and Iraq. As John attempts to reclaim the book, he seems to be threatened on all sides, and it becomes clear that he can’t trust anyone, especially in a world where fairy tales seem to be coming to life around him.
This was a nail-biter, and halfway through it, I realized that it felt like a fairy tale in its own way. To clarify, it feels like the original fairy tales, not the Disney-fied versions we’ve grown up with, it’s in turns frightening, sensual, and magical. There is a seductive beauty, castles, a house hidden away in the woods, a witch, a villain, an unstoppable pursuer, and a quest. All of the pieces of a fairy tale you would expect to find are here and work just as well in this thriller.
McIntosh has a way of keeping not only the action rolling but educating the reader with pieces of history that I admittedly wasn’t aware of, stories of books, and how over the years the stories themselves change, or are changed.
This was a great read, and I don’t want to talk at length about the plot, because it was more fun to discover it all as I was going along.
In the end, all I can say is, if you are looking for a rip-snorting good read that doesn’t take its reader for granted, neither pander nor talk down to you, then this one is guaranteed to do the job. It’s fun, smart, highly entertaining, and has brought to life a character I find intriguing enough to want to go adventuring with again.
The Book of Stolen Tales is available today!