5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A Disjointed Effort,
This review is from: The Genesis Secret (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
First let me start with a warning to anyone who picks up The Genesis Secret assuming that it will be another light Da Vinci Code-style romp through half-baked alternative biblical theories and conspiracies. Yes, it features the latter but light it is not. Tom Knox's debut novel can be pretty heavy going, featuring as it does kidnap, murder and some very gruesome torture scenes that are described in quite vivid detail. I would not write the book off on the grounds of the violence it contains as some other Amazon reviewers have. Everything that occurs is relevant to the plot. The book should however, come with a warning that those of a squeamish disposition or who are easily offended by scenes of violence may wish to avoid it. Its certainly not going to be everyone's cup of tea.
Assuming however that you can put up with the Grand Guignol nature of some of the events portrayed, is The Genesis Secret worth the reader's time? The answer to that question is a qualified 'yes'. Overall Tom Knox has come up with a reasonably well crafted thriller that also makes you think just a little bit. That will probably be enough to satisfy much of the book's target readership.
The Genesis Secret is nowhere near being a great thriller though. It's very much a book of two-halves. The first half is on the whole pretty damn good. Knox sets up two parallel plot strands that are intriguing. He then marshals both quite successfully, revealing enough facts to keep you interested but without giving too much away too soon. As with most books where the 'hook' is the most important element the characters are all pretty much walking clichés, there to serve the plot, but Knox does try to give his main protagonists at least some back-story and depth. Some readers may find the lack of action in the first half disappointing and the book does feel at times like a travel guide to Eastern Turkey (Knox is a travel writer), but I found the local colour the author injects added to my enjoyment of the book and inserting action simply for the sake of it wouldn't have added anything to the story.
In fact it's when Knox does add action during the book's second half that the whole thing goes somewhat downhill. Once the two plot strands merge and the psychotic bad guy is revealed the quality level definitely dips. This isn't because of the torture scenes, although I did feel they were a little more detailed than was strictly necessary and I'm in no way squeamish. It's because Knox tries to do too much with the story. Whilst the book was simply about uncovering two mysteries it worked well. Once it becomes about uncovering the mysteries and saving various characters lives and stopping a psychotic killer to boot, everything just become too muddled.
The bad guy, although colourful, just doesn't come across as believable. He's simply too crazy and violent for it to be plausible that he could commit so many ghastly crimes, and obtain the assistance of others in doing so, without being caught. He's a great plot device but doesn't fit in with the relatively decent factual science that features elsewhere in the book.
Unfortunately his presence and actions drive the direction of the rest of the plot, and the whole thing begins to descend into sub-Da Vinci Code territory, with clues being discovered in hidden compartments within well known buildings and characters taking foolhardy and illogical actions that place them in even greater jeopardy in an effort to stop the mad killer. By the time events come full circle and we're back in eastern Turkey where the story began the whole thing has just become faintly ridiculous. By the time one of the lead characters sits down and explains what exactly the `Genesis Secret' is, in a scene of clunky exposition that feels tacked on, I found that I really didn't care anymore. Tom Knox had lost me when cackling loons had started torturing people on webcams.
This is a shame because The Genesis Code starts out so promisingly. Knox isn't a bad writer and the central premise of the book is interesting. The problem is that he tries to do too much with it and whilst some ideas work others just don't. The Genesis Secret wants to be a historical mystery, a travelogue, a crime thriller and a horror story. By trying to be all of these things it doesn't really do any of them terribly well.