An American CIA agent is sent to the Far East to retrieve an ancient artifact and must dodge the Chinese military, a monk who shoots energy bolts, and other mercenaries in Díwan’s debut thriller.
Dennis Martin is a CIA agent who likes to operate independently. He is sent on a secret mission to Tibet, which is off-limits to Americans, to recover an ancient book that reportedly reveals that Jesus spent the “lost years” of his life in the Far East learning how to perform miracles. Martin teams up with Jetty, another mercenary, and Claudia Blake, a South African journalist, to recover the book. But they have competition: the ever present Chinese military, other vicious mercenaries, and a mysterious monk named Mahakal who performs otherworldly feats. Díwan has created a quick-paced thriller based upon the fascinating premise of exploring the years of Jesus’ life not described in the New Testament. The cast is interesting and memorable: Martin is sufficiently contemptuous of authority to elicit empathy; Jetty is the rough-and-tumble mercenary of popular imagination; and the supporting players are distinctive. Especially good are the U.S. government members, who are duplicitous and oily without twirling handlebar mustaches. The one exception is Blake—the stereotypical beautiful, intriguing foreigner who falls into the spy’s arms. The author obviously knows Tibet and the other locations, and his descriptions of the people and their customs add to the book’s authenticity: “To one side of the field was a gigantic yurt with colorful paintings of Buddhist deities on its exterior.” This is a debut novel, and it occasionally shows—characters are continually grinning and smiling after speaking—but overall, Díwan has created a knotty thriller about the past that bodes well for his next effort.
A good mixture of mysticism, mystery, and action.