In Baker’s debut thriller, mysterious relics from the age of Alexander the Great link an ancient mystery with a modern-day discovery.
Fans of Dan Brown and Steve Berry will feel right at home with this tale, in which an enigmatic object from the distant past becomes the center of contemporary intrigue. The story opens in 21st-century New York City, where a hapless part-time museum assistant named Shamar is brutally accosted by a trio of men intent on stealing the museum’s newest acquisition: a crate containing a mysterious object that only someone wearing a special protective robe can handle. After the men leave with the crate, Shamar, still aching from the beating they gave him, wraps himself in the robe left behind—and suddenly finds himself transported to fourth-century Alexandria, Egypt. At its famous library, the intelligent, kind-hearted librarian Theon tends to the mysterious, newly arrived stranger. Theon notices something sewn into the lining of Shamar’s clothing—a case containing a small, beautiful, lotus-shaped crystal and a parchment written in Aramaic. The parchment hints of the existence of a scroll containing powerful revelations, perhaps hidden somewhere in the great library itself. Theon is quick to understand the significance of what he’s dealing with: “Who desires its contents?” he wonders. “Clergy will certainly want it; perhaps even kings, queens, or a leader of nations, but what else makes it so sought after!” It turns out that one person who desires the scroll is a ruthless 21st-century man named Patrick, who’ll stop at nothing to get it. The narrative follows the parallel adventures of Theon and Shamar in the past and Patrick and his right-hand man Gabriel in the present, and Baker skillfully and effectively uses each plotline to heighten the tension of the other. This is fortunate, as the novel has some flaws: The pacing is sometimes lethargic, the many action sequences seem static, and the dialogue can be wooden. However, Baker reveals the clues that lead to Alexander’s treasure with just enough precision to offset these drawbacks, and an enjoyable subplot involving Shamar’s spirited girlfriend, Sophia, helps enliven the book’s second half, which leads to a series of climactic surprises.
An earnest, if sometimes-plodding, venture into The Da Vinci Code territory.