Stumble upon a legend. Find curious professor with hat. Fly to exotic locales. Add requisite bad guys. Spin jeopardy’s wheel. So goes Brokaw’s (The Atlantis Code, 2009, etc.) thriller.
Professor Thomas Lourds is again at the hurricane eye of nonstop action. At an archaeological find near China’s Yellow River, he unearths a tortoise shell marked with odd inscriptions. A linguist, Lourds believes he has discovered an early form of writing, with the text providing clues to a mystery at an isolated monastery, Scholar’s Rock Temple, high up in the Himalayas. But that’s only a preliminary adventure. Lev Strauss, an old colleague, beckons Lourds to Israel to help decipher a volume Strauss discovered in Cairo. Strauss believes it contains clues to the hiding place of Mohammad’s direct-from-God handwritten Koran and “a scroll that foretells the future of the Muslim people,” texts he fears could generate a worldwide crisis. Strauss is soon killed in what appears to be a terrorist attack, and Lourds has only the sketchy clues Strauss left behind. Lourds follows the unfolding evidence from Jerusalem to Vienna and from Tel Aviv to Tehran, attracting women as he ricochets from city to city. He beds Alice Von Volker, a lover during Lourds’ youth, who is now unhappily married to Klaus Von Volker, a virulent anti-Semitic neo-Nazi and arms dealer linked to Iran. Lourds is watched over by Miriam Abata, an attractive and deadly young Mossad agent who ends up topless and tortured by Revolutionary Guards in Tehran’s infamous Evin Prison. Chapters are short and cinematic. Stereotypical characters define themselves through action. There are multiple rescues. Bad guys die. Good guys die. Gunfights ricochet in chambers beneath Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock, the place from which Mohammad ascended to heaven. The puzzle is solved. The professor lives to decode the next legend. Sharp readers may notice a minor plot hole. The resolution will suit conspiracy collectors, but it is a tad unsatisfying.
Derivative but entertaining escapist fare.