Book review: The Keystone by A.M.Dean

Fancy a conspiracy thriller which blends bruising action with brains? Step into the dark and dangerous world of Dr Emily Wess and her cerebral creator, the leading historian A.M.Dean.

Tuesday, 3rd September 2013, 10:00 am
The Keystone by A.M.Dean
The Keystone by A.M.Dean

The Keystone is the second book of a classy series which blends high-octane adventure with fascinating, fact-filled history, taking the cultures of ancient civilisations into contemporary settings with stunning authenticity… and explosive results.

Dean, an expert on ancient cultures, history and late antiquity, first introduced us to Emily, an academic constantly on missions to save the world, in The Lost Library and now she is back to track down a key which has been lost for nearly 2,000 years.

The author’s long-standing interest in the human tendency toward conspiracies, together with his commanding grasp of the genuinely mysterious context of real history, have inspired the breadth and focus of these irresistibly clever and exciting books.

Dean takes historical events and discoveries and uses them as a backdrop on which to weave fast-paced, suspense-driven mysteries based on extensive research and top-notch academic scholarship.

At the heart of The Keystone is the history of ancient Gnosticism, a religious belief that the material world should be shunned and the spiritual world embraced, which came under new scrutiny when a treasure trove of intriguing and ambiguous writings was found at Nag Hammadi in Egypt in 1945.

Dr Emily Wess is a woman driven by the unknown. Ancient history and religions are her passion and she has a craving for ‘the mysterious and the unexplained.’

What she doesn’t yet realise is that she has in her possession the one object that will enable an ancient religious order to undertake the greatest and most perilous work in their long history.

When her visiting cousin, Andrew Wess, is murdered in the study of her home in London by ruthless intruders, Emily and her husband Michael Torrance, a Coptic antiquities expert at the British Museum, are soon on the trail of a dangerous artefact.

This ancient key holds the secret to unveiling a Gnostic mystery and has lain hidden in a sealed jar in a cave in the Egyptian desert since AD 374. In the wrong hands, it could unleash destruction beyond imagining on the modern world.

In Chicago, meanwhile, the Magnificent Mile, a shopping mecca for thousands of tourists, is about to go down in history. The dangerous sect is preparing for an explosive Independence Day parade and the finishing touches are being put to a device that will wreak untold havoc on the city.

Soon Emily, Michael and the ruler of the sect are racing to Egypt. One party craves retribution, the other seeks spiritual ascendancy and both sides will do whatever it takes to succeed. But can Emily and Michael stop the sect before they transform an ancient promise into a very modern curse?

The Keystone has all the essential ingredients of a traditional history mystery – nailbiting suspense, intriguing clues, false trails, a devilish foe, danger aplenty and exotic landscapes – but there is the added thrill of exciting chunks of little-known history and some in-depth knowledge directing the action.

Emily and Michael, meanwhile, are becoming an appealing and absorbing double act as they harness brains and brawn on epic, action-packed journeys to justice, truth and deliverance.

Don’t miss the great adventure…

(Pan, paperback, £7.99)