Easterman, whose The Last Assassin (1985) showed unusual flair for a first novel, here surpasses himself with a whopper of an adventure thriller that takes a tired notion--yet another Nazi conspiracy about to erupt--and through audacious invention and rich detail turns it into a hypnotically enjoyable, albeit overlong, four-star spectacle of conspiracies, mysteries, and cliffhangers. In a nutshell: young American archaeologist David Rosen, following clues left by a murdered friend and aided by a lovely Arab terrorist, tracks down the legendary lost Jewish city of Iram. There, in the heart of the Arabian desert, he finds the holiest of Jewish relics, the Ark of the Covenant. He also finds a thriving community of Nazis who, in tandem with colleagues infiltrated into the Israeli government, plan to destroy Israel by seducing it into a pan-Mideast war it can't win. David foils the plan and saves the Ark, but loses his life. A superficially silly and partly derivative (from the Indiana Jones cycle) premise. But Easterman's authoritative knowledge of the Mideast (he doubles as a professor of Islamic Studies) and of the archeological arcane invests his painstaking description of David's decoding of Iram's location, and his superbly realized settings--a terrorist safe-house in Arab Jerusalem, the towering dunes of the Nafud desert, a monastery perched on an isolated mountaintop--with a bedrock authenticity that grounds the fantastic plot. This, coupled with his reckless plunging of his sympathetic hero and heroine into the most dire straits--entombment, torture, desert sand-storms, attacks by giant spiders and a crazed samurai--at every turn, and his skill at interlacing several intricately twisted plot lines, allow him to master and transcend that wild, clichÃ‰d premise. Extravagant, edge-of-the-seat entertainment.