Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Celtic Conspiracy

The Celtic Conspiracy
Author: Thore D. Hansen (translated from German by Anne Adams)
AmazonCrossing, 2012
471 pages

The Celtic Conspiracy is the recently-released (in the USA) English translation of a German language novel called Die Hand Gottes or The Hand of God. I took a chance on this book despite a 3-star rating and several negative reviews on Amazon.com. (Interestingly, the ratings on the Amazon Germany site average 4.5 stars as of this writing.)

I'm glad I took a chance, because despite a few first-time-author flaws, this is the best conspiracy novel I've read since Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code (which blew me away when I read it back in 2004).

The Celtic Conspiracy's plot begins at the end of WWII with the discovery of a hidden cache of well-preserved scrolls and other items in a cave near Klagenfurt, Austria. The finder is a British Army officer who happens to be an archaeologist. Sensing that he's onto something, he takes what he can carry and then has his men seal up the cave's entrance to preserve the contents.

Flash-forward to the present time, when several characters cross paths, drawn together by Ronald MacLary, an Irish-American judge who happens to be a conspiracy theorist in his, um, spare time. Turns out MacLary is the son of the British Army officer/archeologist we met in the opening section, and he remembers his Dad telling him stories about the Celtic Druids and the stash of stuff he found in Austria. Unfortunately, the elder MacLary died when the boy was still young. The son's life obsession has been around solving the mystery his Dad passed along to him.

Joined by a couple of modern-day Druids, a linguist, and an attorney keen on revenge against the Church for wiping out so many indigenous cultures in the name of religion, MacLary sets out to find the antiquities and to learn what really happened. But of course, there are those who don't want these things found, because they'll reveal a secret that's been kept for some two thousand years.

There are lots of tense moments, and sometimes . . . sometimes, things seem a bit rushed. The Celtic Conspiracy at times seems like a spy novel, then a courtroom drama, then a sort of New Age manifesto. I think it's the latter that's sparking some of the low ratings for the book, but I could be wrong.

Bottom line? I was entertained. Not blown away. But entertained nonetheless. And it was nice to read a book that was (at least partly) set in Austria. :)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Unwanted

Unwanted
Author: Kristina Ohlsson
Atria/Emily Bestler Books, 2012
368 pages

When a six year-old girl disappears from a high speed train on the way to Stockholm, legendary investigator Alex and his team spring into action. Fredrika is an academic who's fairly new to working with the police, and her colleagues don't yet appreciate her analytical skills. Peder, a law enforcement professional, is one who definitely thinks Fredrika is in the wrong place. But the three of them have work to do, so the investigation begins.

Turns out the girl's parents have split, and there's been a custody battle. Soon it comes to light that the girl's father had frequently abused her mother. Everyone is looking for the father so they can question him, but he's nowhere to be found. Naturally, he becomes suspect number one -- until the missing girl is found dead in a town some 600km to the north of Stockholm.

It's a page-turner. I read the last 40% in one sitting, not caring at all that I had to get up early the next morning to go to work. :)

Ohlsson does a great job of weaving social issues such as domestic violence and mental illness into the story.  Some of the characters are creepy. Really creepy. Yet if you take a look at their backgrounds and life experiences, they're creepy because someone made them that way. 

Apparently, Unwanted is the first book in a series. The other books aren't yet available in the USA, but I'll be on the lookout because I'm definitely interested in reading more by this author!