Da Vinci Code fans will be mildly intrigued.

THE SIDON INCIDENT

A globe-trotting, perspective-shifting thriller filled with conspiracy theories and secret societies.

When the novel opens, the daughter of noted neurosurgeon Maurice Bergman is in a coma: She was poisoned at an archaeological dig site near Sidon, Lebanon, where Joseph, the father of Jesus, purportedly rests. Her father must take her to Rome in order to cure her. Once there, she’s given a drug that magically wakes her, and she’s able to explain to her father what occurred: She stumbled on the bones of St. Joseph, and an angel appeared to her in the guise of her dead mother to give her some kind of a fertility doll. Elsewhere, two men who were hired to fetch the statue of the Virgin are now explaining themselves not to the priest who hired them, but to a third party; the exact mechanics of their criminal endeavors remain murky throughout the novel. Also involved are an Austrian professor of Egyptian antiquities named Ernst Von Biden and an American investigative reporter, Marvin Challet, who seem to be representing the interests of the Catholic Church. Narrative focus switches between these groups from chapter to chapter, further complicating an already bewildering story. Inconsistencies and questions abound, even beside the credulity-straining Gnostic plot. For example, if this girl is so ill, why is she in her father’s house and not in the hospital? Even the best neurosurgeons don’t have access to the necessary level of machinery and medication at home. Furthermore, it’s difficult to swallow that a father fearing for his daughter’s life would automatically take the word of a stranger who calls to inform him about his daughter’s poisoning and who further insists that the treatment for this condition is available only in Rome. Even if that were true, logic dictates that it’s much easier to send medication than to bring a girl in a coma overseas. Indeed, none of the medical aspects of the novel can be looked at too closely. Punctuation errors, usually involving commas, pop up on nearly every page, as does an overreliance on ellipses to indicate speech patterns.  Frequently, clunky phrasing and poor diction submerge the narrative—i.e., “laughed belly laughs.” The author also often ignores that old standby of writerly advice: Show, don’t tell. Sometimes, even the dialogue is painfully expository: “You must be weary having just arrived from Lebanon,” a man helpfully explains to his guests.

Da Vinci Code fans will be mildly intrigued. 

Pub Date: July 2, 2010

ISBN: 978-1451518559

Page Count: 262

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2013

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A fast-paced, engaging trip to the heart of a bachelor, without enough plausibility or dimension.

THE ALASKAN STING

In Herold’s debut novel, a young, womanizing boozehound struggles to catch up with his elusive Alaska-bound cruise ship.

Young, single Tom Courier has just been gifted an all-expenses-paid trip aboard the Nordic Princess, courtesy of his cousin and co-worker, Scott. His objective: two weeks of bourbon-soaked, coitus-filled relaxation. Things seem on track after he achieves his objective an hour into his initial connecting flight. From there, however, his plans veer wildly off course: A bomb detonates on the plane’s wing, forcing an emergency landing in Portland. Tom misses the Princess’ departure, but his luggage finds its way on board and serves as motivation throughout the story for him to reach the ship. Unfazed, Tom seizes the opportunity to spend an erotic evening with Mandy—the “cougar” he met on the plane—in a secluded hideaway in the Oregon wilderness. Herold’s ominous foreshadowing hints at Tom’s impending misfortune, and trouble continues to lurk just below the surface for much of the novel. The author maintains sufficient momentum as his protagonist pushes on, inching ever closer to reaching his stateroom aboard the seafaring vessel. Yet an ensuing stream of uncannily coincidental mishaps keeps him perpetually one step behind. On his next layover, in British Columbia, Tom finds himself in another love affair, this time with a local surfing champion named Giata. In increasingly predictable fashion, this fling proves more urgent than catching the ship, of which Tom remains in tepid pursuit. Unfortunately, Tom’s seemingly one-track mind accentuates his shallow depth of character and risks preventing many readers from relating to him. Following another airplane crash, Tom finds himself in the port town of Ketchikan, Alaska, engaging in yet another romance with a local beauty. There, he’s hurled inexplicably into a two-man campaign to track down a mythical, luck-bringing sea beast. The story’s rapid pace continues at the expense of character development, while typos throughout further distract from the more subtle plot threads Herold attempts to weave. Despite the lulling effect of its rhythmic, seemingly inevitable series of calamities, the story revives for a compelling final twist.

A fast-paced, engaging trip to the heart of a bachelor, without enough plausibility or dimension.

Pub Date: Jan. 20, 2012

ISBN: 978-1468507737

Page Count: 328

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2014

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Our Verdict

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    Best Books Of 2012

BYE BYE BLACKBIRD

WORLDS PAST AND WORLDS AWAY

Merging geographic precision with detailed lyricism, Berry’s collection of poetry spans continents and states of the soul.

The best poetry focused on a particular locale tends to evoke sensory stimulation as much as meaning, and Berry’s collection of nearly 60 poems is no different. Born in England, the author has travelled widely throughout Africa and the United States. With a doctorate in geography, she casts a discriminating, discerning eye on the landscapes to which her travels have taken her. In unrhymed, compact poems—few more than a page in length—the poet speaks with seriousness about the relationship between the natural world and one’s inner world. In “Music of Place,” she writes: “Carried in the wind is the music of place, blown / like washing on a line, white sheets flapping, sending / large billowing folds of sound back to me,” which typifies her ability to translate a place into a finely detailed, highly specific moment in her past or present. Some poems set in North Africa elevate journallike jottings into sharply etched experiences. The dominant moods suffusing these poems are calm and meditational, perhaps reflecting the influence of poet Elizabeth Bishop, who was also attuned to inner and outer geographies. The final 20 poems shift focus from geography and place to reconciliations or frictions with family members; many relatives have passed on but are vibrantly alive in the author’s memory. These family sketches often turn on a particularly poignant phrase spoken to the author by a parent or loved one: “Windows” pivots on Berry’s father’s comment, “I could drive if I wanted to,” as the author notes that her father never owned a car. Few books of recent poetry reveal such a penetrating awareness of how the environments in which we live affect us as much as we affect them. An extraordinary, nuanced collection by a gifted poet.

 

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1935514749

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Plain View

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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