The Istanbul Puzzle was one of my favourite thrillers of 2012. It set the stage well for a series of mystery adventures in the ancient cities of the Middle East featuring heroes Sean and Isabel. While the first novel had a watery theme, with memorable scenes in the Roman cisterns of Istanbul, this second adventure is all about fire.
When Sean and Isabel investigate the murder of archaeologist Max Keiser, they discover its link to the disappearance of Susan Hunter who had been working on the translation of an archaic document. They soon learn that their enemy will stop at nothing to control this manuscript, using fire in the most horrific way to keep ahead of those on his trail. It isn’t long before this monster turns his attention to Sean and Isabel and the chase takes them across the desert landscape of Israel.
Laurence O’Bryan writes well and he keeps the pages turning. The Jerusalem Puzzle, though, is at a disadvantage. It very much has the feel of a middle novel about it. The majority of the book describes the hunt for Susan with the mystery of the manuscript itself pushed into the background, as if it’s something that Sean and Isabel will get to later on. More pieces to the puzzle begun in Istanbul are slotted into place but not enough. It also has a hard act to follow, The Istanbul Puzzle, and it suffers by the comparison. I also found the novel too gory.
The Jerusalem Puzzles builds on the characterisation of Sean and Isabel successfully, making you more invested in what happens to them as the story goes on. The characters are likeable and flawed, they both have histories the other is still learning. Laurence O’Bryan’s particular strength, though, is his knowledge of the places described and the way in which he shares this familiarity with the reader. He clearly knows Jerusalem as well as Istanbul. Having lived in Israel, I recognised the place.
You would have to have read The Istanbul Puzzle before this for it to mean anything – but I would recommend you do that anyway.
The Istanbul Puzzle