In this second book of a YA series, a group of teenagers wonders whom to trust while searching for a missing scroll.
In The Caves of Qumran (2017), Wilson introduced Maylee Tayten and her brother, Smith, two teenagers from Bozeman, Montana. While visiting their Uncle Arnold in Israel, the siblings became involved in the hunt for a priceless, previously unknown Dead Sea Scroll dubbed “the Queen”; their uncle’s 16-year-old neighbor, Rafi, helped them. After some dangerous adventures, the scroll was found but lost again, and the three teens were glad to escape unscathed. As this book begins, it’s Christmas break, and Smith is unhappily back in Bozeman, staying with his father. Poking around the internet’s dark corners, the young man hopes to rediscover the Queen—but he only succeeds in bringing unwelcome attention to himself. Maylee, meanwhile, has returned to the Middle East for a camel-back trip through the Sinai Desert to Cairo with Uncle Arnold and Rafi. Keeping watch over them are the many members of the mysterious, powerful Order of the Peacock, whose intentions are hard to determine. Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, cousins Amjad and Jerome investigate clues left by their grandfather, Kareem Hassan, who’d given the Queen to Amjad before it was stolen and lost. Later, a startling family secret is unveiled. As in the first installment, Wilson evokes atmosphere skillfully in a tricky plot with plenty of red herrings and ambivalent motives. Her character sketches are vivid; a worried Smith, for example, is described as “corroding in his own adrenaline.” Maylee can be a thoughtful observer, although her teen angst gets melodramatic at times, and her view of Bedouins is overly romanticized: “How can they be so happy?…They lived under the stars and sat on the ground for every meal. But they had family. Joy. Love.” Wilson could also have better oriented readers with a recap of the first book’s events (and a translation of the term “jehdi”). This entry does, at least, finally give the siblings’ ages (13 and 16), hometown, and last name.
A complex teen adventure, but one that doesn’t work well as a stand-alone novel.