When Dr Brooke Marcel is kidnapped on a visit to Ireland, the clock starts ticking. The chase is on and in pursuit of the kidnappers, who have ruthlessly killed Brooke’s friend and her employer, is no ordinary hero. Brooke is the ex-girlfriend of Ben Hope, a former Major in the SAS who now works as an expert consultant in just these sorts of cases. But this kidnap is personal and there’s nowhere Ben won’t go and nothing he won’t do to get Brooke safely home. The motives for the kidnap are unclear though, lost in a knot of possible clues, some of which involve the salvage of a 16th-century Armada vessel, sunk off the Irish coast, and a piece of jungle in South America. As Ben searches for Brooke across Ireland, Spain and South America, other men hunt for him. But there are others on a similar trail, driven by their own obsessions. But with the hours and days passing, and the urgency and desperation (not to mention violence) increasing, will Ben be too late to save Brooke?
I am a big fan of Ben Hope, the tough, heavy drinking, charismatic, blond warrior-hero created by Scott Mariani, so much so that a friend and I spent some time working out who we would cast for the role in the movie (we settled on Michael Fassbender – a sensible choice, I’m sure you’d agree). While I have read all eight Ben Hope thrillers, the last – The Sacred Sword – was for me the weakest. You can read my review here but it’s fair to say that I found it formulaic and even tired. It was certainly full of thrills but they didn’t grab my attention.
The Armada Legacy is a different kettle of fish altogether. Arguably, this is a back to basics Ben Hope thriller. The archaeological mysteries, the world-stopping revelations, the bulletproof superhero all take a step back and what we have instead is a tightly plotted, focused race against time, dominated by the always intriguing and fascinating character of Ben Hope. This is a man who has woken up with a jolt. We’ve followed his stormy relationship with Brooke over several books and now he is faced with the very possible outcome of losing the woman that can heal his life. He even stops and thinks before taking a drink. In The Sacred Sword there were other discoveries about Ben’s past that you could call more significant and earth-bending but for me they were far less meaningful. In The Armada Legacy, it’s much more simple. Ben Hope loves Brooke Marcel and he will stop at nothing to get her back.
While this intensification of Ben’s purpose is a positive force, it did mean that the mystery of the Armada legacy itself gets very short shrift. Whereas in some of the Ben Hope novels the archaeological mystery has prominence, here it does not. But this didn’t matter. The pace of the novel is so strong and the efforts of Ben to find his way back to Brooke are so satisfyingly complex, that the thrill of the hunt more than atones for the lack of archaeological puzzle. The strength of this series lies above all else in the character of Ben Hope and in The Armada Legacy he comes into his own. We’ve got to know Brooke over the years and she too gets to show us a little more of what she’s made of. And I liked it. As for the villain of the piece – you’d have to read a lot of thrillers to find a villain as nasty and as corrupted and yet still as human as this one.
As with many series, it would make sense to read the Ben Hope novels from the first, The Alchemist’s Secret, but each can be read alone. Each will, though, insist that you read the others.
The Sacred Sword