23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
This is the second novel in the series by Paul Sussman featuring Detective Inspector Khalifa - the first being 'The Lost Army of Cambyses'. I purchased the two books together and I'm glad I did or else I would have missed out on this great gem! I really didn't enjoy the first book all that much finding the majority of characters so dull I couldn't bring myself to care when their lives were hanging in the balance. The one character that was interesting however was Khalifa who appears again in the second book as the Detective with a moral conscience. It is not necessary to read the books in chronological order as there are only a few passing references to the first book and The Last Secret of the Temple is by far the more superior of the two.
I won't go into what the book is actually about in this review as I think there is enough said about the story in the synopsis and in some of the reviews here but what I will say is that I've not read a book of this type that was this good since I read the Dan Brown's books a few years back. It is very easy to get into and the story does keep you hooked until the end. The book looks at religious conflict, racial prejudices and hatred, morality and power and it deals with these themes effectively without becoming too political or too sentimental. I can't wait for Paul Sussman's next novel and this one is definitely highly recommended!
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 5 September 2006
I fell willing into the publisher's 'if you loved the Da Vinci Code you'll love this' trap and I'm so glad I did. No disrespect to Dan Brown who wrote a terrific single plot thriller which I thoroughly enjoyed but this is so much more. A complex series of interwoven ideas and characters from ancient Jewish and Christian history to the complexities and moral ambiguity of the current situation in the Middel East it's a heart-thumping, page-turning thriller, with wonderfully imagined,multi dimensional central characters. Well written- literary without being pretentious, good storytelling without dumbing down. If you read nothing else this year you have to read this.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 23 January 2008
In Egypt's Valley of the Kings a body is found, kicking off a series of events and discoveries for chain-smoking Egyptian detective Yusuf Khalifa. As he delves deeper into the dead man's background, Khalifa realises that there is more to the case than at first meets the eye. The story veers from the invasion of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD to the suicide bombings and inter-racial hatred of present-day Israel, in search of an ancient artefact that could send the Middle East up in flames.
Paul Sussman's second book is hard to get into. The fragmentation of the first part, as Sussman sets the scene from the viewpoints of several protagonists, almost lets the book down before it's really gotten off the starting blocks. But stick with it. From the moment the various characters meet and piece together the mystery bit by bit, the pace starts to hot up, leading to a triple crisis at the end and a superb cliffhanger in the final moments.
The publishers have used a quote from the Independent newspaper's reviewer for the cover of the paperback edition of the book : "The intelligent reader's answer to The Da Vinci Code". I guess this is referring to the depth of the background geographical, political, emotional and psychological scenery that goes along with the "explosive" plot, a depth clearly missing from Dan Brown's massive bestseller.
Or perhaps it simply means that all is not as it seems, and therein lie a number of explosions not caused by concealed explosives belts or underground arsenals.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 23 August 2006
It's not often you get both in the classic 'airport novel' genre, they're usually pretty brainless. This one certainly isn't. Set in the middle east and featuring a mixture of israeli & palestinian characters, i think it does a good job of illustrating the horrors inflicted in both directions without being partisan one way or the other. And the author doesn't let politics interfere with a damn good story, but the way it's interwoven gives pause for thought.
The adventure part itself is well done, not dry and definitely structured to keep you reading (I read it in a day). It has the usual cathar/templar stuff but for a change not really a Christian view point. The main character (egyptian detective) is really well written and easy to imagine as a real person, likewise his counterpart is all too human. The weakest character is the woman who is a bit bland and stereotypical in comparison.
The only other thing i found a bit disappointing and hence 4 not 5 stars was the twist which i thought wasn't needed and wasn't convincing with the character it involved
However if you like the Da vinci code you will definitely like this, and i am looking forward to reading the first book by the same author.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 2 March 2010
A refreshingly intelligent, complex and fast-paced thriller that combines police procedural, archaeology, Medieval history (including, perhaps inevitably, the Knights Templar), the present-day conflict in the Middle East and the Nazis. That the two key events in the prologue happen in 60AD and towards the end of the Second World War tell you much about the broad historical sweep of this novel.
If you read the 'Da Vinci Code' and thought it was somewhat lacking in several aspects, then this is the novel for you. The characters are more believable, especially the two detectives (one Egyptian, the other an Arab-hating Israeli) who end up being forced to work together to uncover a secret that could hold the key to peace in the Middle East - provided it doesn't fall into the wrong hands, that is.
In addition to a cracking plot, this novel looks even-handedly at serious issues such as racial hatred, religious fanaticism, morality and power, and does so without resorting to bias, sentimentality or treating the reader like an idiot.
To sum up, this is is a very well-researched and well-written novel for the thinking reader who enjoys modern-day thrillers. I must confess that had not heard of Paul Sussman before, but on this evidence I shall definitely be on the lookout for more of his works in the future.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 6 June 2013
I think the first thing worth mentioning is, many reviewers professional or on here or wherever, are saying this is like the Da Vinci Code. But the truth is, it's not really, there are shades of it, true, just as there are shades of Indie stories and even the Odessa File, but that's all. I don't think it's an even comparison - in my opinion any way.
But what we do have is a story featuring very realistic very raw characters, in manner, language and attitude. Strong expletives throughout with a little sex. But it all works, it all fits, and there's even some supernatural stuff as well, not much I may add, but there is, a little.
Ok, that's the feel of the tale, but it is actually about Arab and Israeli tensions in modern times, dragging Egypt back into the picture in the form of an Egyptian detective working, badly, with an angry Israeli detective, over murders in Egypt and Palestine, both linked, hence the unlikely tie up. There's also a Biblical artefact which is central to the tale, which not surprisingly, means Nazis also feature due to their obsession with hoarding as much plundered gold, icons and fine art etc as possible.
The only thing I was disappointed in was the fact that the Egyptian station chief did not figure more. He's a really good character, and in the short space he has, is unintentionally (and I mean the character not the author) very funny.
I do not normally take to tales with Fs and Cs every other para, but I will if it's relevant and fits the characters and situations - this does, for sure.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 October 2010
I was a fan of Dan Brown's Di Vinci Code despite the fact it is now unfashionable to like this author but when I saw this title in my doctor's surgery (in a book sale) I bought it thinking it might be a copycat book written by someone trying to cash in on the genre. I was very wrong as it is far superior in both plot and writing.
I was quickly gripped from page 1 by the seige of Jerusalem, distressed by the Nazi chapter and then I hit a lower point. There are a good many characters that are very rapidly introduced with a lot of chopping and changing and I became impatient to find out what was going on and how they were linked. I also feared I coudn't keep track of them all with their different sounding names - but after a sleepless night I decided to crack it and it was well worth the effort as it only required a little concentration and I was so hooked I read most of it in one sitting.
It is more relevant than Dan Brown's books being set against the current backdrop of the Palestine/Isreal conflict - something that my knowledge of was hazy - and I was pleased to learn a good deal more about this sad situation. Such is the strengh of Sussman's characters that he is very even handed showing sympathetic characters on both sides of the divides as well as baddies on both sides. I grew up in religious and political conflict so I am totally familiar with the sort of hatred born out of bitterness that fans the flames for more conflict so if I had just got this from the book it would have been quite enough. However what I got was a whole lot more - a great plot with twists and turns all over the place, right to the very satisfactory end.
I would always give this book full marks whether it is out of 5 or 10 but the book does have some flaws ... I think every author now writes with a view to a film so there was some obligitory sex/romance that served no real purpose and was cliched - possibly after a publisher's pressure? A lot of plane travel (although the difficulities of it were well illustrated rather than in Brown's novels where they seem to get from A - B with remarkable ease). Also I am always amazed that these codes that have been unbroken for years get broken so easily after just a few hour's of head scrathing and the usual 'I am not an expert but ...' followed by expert surmising - but to be fair there would be novel at all if the code didn't get broken so I suppose this is to be expected. There was a LOT of smoking ... Ok so the character Khalifa smokes but he lit up a cigarette every second of the day and it must have accounted for about 5,000 words of the book's total!! However as the characters are so well defined and beautifully crafted I can forgive these minor flaws and still say it is a cracking book and I plan to re-read straight away so I can savour it more.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
The Last Secret of the Temple, Paul Sussman's follow-up to Lost Army of the Cambyses, is another thriller set in the contemporary Middle East and, like its predecessor, deals with the historical, political and religious turmoil that has gripped the region since the earliest times.
Once again the lead role is taken by Inspector Yusuf Khalifa of the Egyptian police force, who, except for his nationality and Islamic faith, is in all other ways an everyman cop and a fine detective. He is an engaging and human presence and forms the moral centre to the story. He also initiates events with his investigation into the death of a elderly European man at an achaeological site near Luxor. From this apparently minor event spins a tale that takes in Egypt, Israel, France and Germany and reveals a secret that dates back to pre-Christian times.
Caught up in it all are two new central characters, Israeli detective Arieh Ben Roi and English/Palestinian Journalist Layla al-Madani. Working both individually and together they uncover a conspiracy that dates back three thousand years but threatens to have a profound & tragic impact on the present. In doing so they and Kalifa come into contact with an extensive and colourful cast of supporting characters on all sides.
As with The Lost Army, Sussman uses the story he has crafted to focus on contemporary Middle Eastern politics; with particular attention to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. That he manages to do so and remain comparatively bipartisan is to his credit. Other books dealing with the same subject in a similar fashion often end up coming down on one side or the other, giving a skewed and distorted view of the situation there. Like all authors tackling such a complex and thorny subject however, the best Sussman can do is to scratch the surface and 'Last Secret' is able to give little real insight into an age old conflict.
Still, it does make for a sound basis for a thriller and 'Last Secret' is, for the most part, a solid, reasonably intelligent effort in that department. The plot is suitably tortuous, with numerous conspiracies large and small rising to the surface as the three leads investigate a series of apparently unconnected events. Most of these make sense and, if you're able to suspend your disbelief, even the key plot point and 'big reveal' is plausible in a Indiana Jones sort of fashion. There are enough twists to keep you guessing and at the end it all hangs together without too many glaring holes.
Kalifa is, once again, an engaging and human lead character and he anchors the book with his normalcy and level headed attitude to events. Ben-Roi & al-Madani are harder to warm too as both are more extreme characters; a necessary device as they are intended to illustrate both sides in a conflict, but neither are totally unsympathetic and you do find yourself caring for their fates at the denoument.
If there are weak points with the book they are easily indentifiable. For a start the bad guys are thin. Fanatics to a man, they are a good illustration of how unchecked nationalism and hard-line faith, no matter which religion you are, can twist morality and make men commit terrible acts against other people. Like many similarly extremist fictional characters however, there is little emotional depth to them, despite Sussman's best efforts to provide it.
The second fault is the book's length. Whilst the book starts with the same story being approached from three different directions, all of which has to meet and be tied up, it takes a long time to do it and as a result the pacing and the senses of tension and excitement sag a little. This is rescued by a tighter final act, but some more judicious editing might not have gone amiss.
The final issue I have with Last Secret is the secret itself. Without revealing it here, it came across as the weakest element of the book. That is not a criticism of the idea itself, but merely of its execution. Whilst the rest of book clings firmly to a sense of tangible realism, the central maguffin round which all events revolve is a by comparison a flight of fancy and fantasy. I found that this sat uneasily with the rest of the book and felt out of place. This may just be a result of my particular attitude to religous iconography and organised religion in general, but in a book that has strived for an air of authenticity for me it didn't quite fit.
Despite this however, I enjoyed The Last Secret of the Temple. With its setting and the character of Khalifa it is an entertaining and fresh spin on an old formula.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 4 October 2005
Having read Lost Army of Cambyses I was looking forward to revisiting Eqypt with Inspector Khalifa and I was ready for another good thriller with a bit of ancient history thrown in. I wasn't disappointed and the extra flavour of the arab/israeli conflict made the plot that much more interesting.
For my part I think the author got the balance between fictitious plot and modern day politics spot on. The book never seemed too 'heavy' and I even shed a little tear at the end. The characters are believable, the plot keeps you guessing and I felt I had learned a little about the conflicts by the end of the book.
This guy knows how to tell a good story.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 19 June 2010
After reading a book from the same publishing company and reading the blurb at the back,I decided that I would buy this book for my holiday read.However as I ordered it a few weeks to early I thought I would get a head start and read a few pages.What a mistake.....The book was finshed in a week at home.If you have read 'The Di Vinci Code' this book is similar in that they are searching for a fabeled article,that in my view is where the similarities end.I was a bit unimpressed with 'The Di Vinci Code' that the book seemed to end with 50 pages to go,this book however does not.A great twist in the end and some great historic references.If you are looking for a good holiday read this is one for you.But don't start reading it before hand,you'll finish it before you go....Happy reading....