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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Colorful, wacky escapism.

GLEN & TYLER'S HONEYMOON ADVENTURE

Rich, gay newlyweds put bigots and bad guys in their place in this “bromantic” adventure.

Tyler Conrad needs to marry by his 25th birthday if he wants to claim his inheritance, but he can’t rustle up a bride. His best friend, Glen Merriwether, proposes the answer: They’ll take each other’s hand in marriage. Glen and Tyler are both slightly homophobic (and extremely handsome) amateur hockey players who have only dated women, but their rapturous wedding-day kiss uncorks bottled-up passion. The Hollywood conceit kicks off a pageant of wish-fulfillment financed by Tyler’s $36 billion trust fund, featuring a cavernous Park Avenue penthouse, limos, fabulous fashions, the purchase of his-and-his NHL franchises and constant boasting about net worth. Even better than the luxury is the power—to overawe charities with generosity, breeze past snooty gate-keepers with a phone call, and turn the tables on right-wing homophobes with the news that Tyler, who apparently comes to own almost every company in the world, is their boss, landlord or principal advertiser. The novel’s countless revenge scenes are capped by a gothic showdown in which Tyler evicts his thunderous dad and shrieking stepmother from the family manse. After several chapters focused on glamour and gloating, a lightweight thriller plot gels around assassination attempts and the hijacking of a cruise ship; it furnishes the narrative with some nifty spec-ops set pieces, along with a hardened, muscular security detail for Glen and Tyler to banter with. Sanders stocks the story with eccentric—sometimes cartoonish—characters, giddy contrivances and plenty of racy repartee in the stripe of a screwball comedy. Also, determined to portray a feel-good gay relationship free of trauma and angst, he regales readers with scenes of Glen and Tyler nuzzling and cooing amid lavish décor. Unfortunately, their romance doesn’t generate much heat; Glen has little to do except play the adoring onlooker to Tyler, the smug, frat-boy mogul. Still, Sanders’ fluent, well-paced prose supplies enough lively action and glitzy scenery to keep readers entertained.

Colorful, wacky escapism.

Pub Date: June 10, 2011

ISBN: 978-1257809363

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2012

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A unique mystery that could benefit from more action.

THE DEATH FAIRY

In Stevens’ debut novel, suicidal Asia McPhee wonders why she wants to take her own life; her dreams may provide the answer.

This volume, the first in a series of fantasy stories, introduces Asia, a new mother who fights for her sanity while unknown forces urge her to commit suicide. Asia struggles to grasp that her dead mother’s life holds the key to her problems. The book’s compelling premise and the author’s lyrical style ease readers into the story, as haunting parallels connect Asia to her mother, who took her own life when Asia was a newborn. When Asia starts experiencing dreams and visions of her mother, she follows her husband’s advice and seeks the counsel of a psychologist who had ties to her mother, as well as Asia’s friend Jessica, who has similar dreams. As she struggles to remain alive and in control, Asia realizes that she may be a danger to the one she loves most: her baby. Both mystery and fantasy, Stevens’ novel starts off well in blending the two genres, but the story begins to falter at the midway point, when the action gives way to too much conversation. Redundant dialogue not only bogs down the mystery but stunts the pace of the narrative. Meanwhile, the book’s action sequences are riveting but far too infrequent. The plotline would benefit from drawing out the tension, as the climactic moment occurs too abruptly for readers to experience the full power of its effect. Despite its flaws, though, the book’s vivid journey through Asia’s dreamscapes will enthrall readers to the end.

A unique mystery that could benefit from more action.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2010

ISBN: 978-0986706608

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Paris Press

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2012

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