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PROPHET OF BONES by Ted Kosmatka


by Ted Kosmatka

Pub Date: April 2nd, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-8050-9617-0
Publisher: Henry Holt

This archaeological thriller from Kosmatka (The Games, 2012) has a promising opening that winds up as a dead end.

In the first scene, a power-mad, messianic Prophet is murdered by his renegade followers. We then flash to the troubled childhood of Paul Carlsson, a sensitive soul with a violently abusive father and an ominous fascination for breeding rats. But no, Paul doesn’t grow up to be the Prophet—in fact, the latter is never heard from again, so the opening scene is simply left dangling. Nor does Paul’s tortured childhood play into the remainder of the book. Instead, the reader is dropped into an entirely different plot, in which the adult Paul—who has become a specialist in DNA research—is called to an Indonesian archaeological dig, where he discovers bones that seem to belong to a previously undiscovered, human-related species. He soon learns that he’s working for Martial Johansson, a mysterious billionaire who’ll do anything to keep this information from getting out. Johansson is doing his own sinister research, but it’s never clear why he’s so threatened by Paul’s discovery—or why he would sponsor the dig when he knows what will be found. We don’t even learn when the action is happening: The setting is an era when evolution has apparently been disproved and certain key scientific texts are banned, but there’s no clue why or when. The book’s climax finds Paul reunited with Lillivati, his college mentor and girlfriend, whose sex drive is apparently unaffected by looming threats on her life.

Together, they face a series of deadly chases—first with Johansson’s henchmen, then with crossbred ape/human monsters. But these events do little to advance a plot whose coherence has long since vanished into the ether.