Last year’s The Lost Library was the first thriller to introduce us to Emily Weiss, a young Professor of History and Religion with a talent for seeking out danger and a knack for putting right wrongs at great personal risk to herself. She is a brave and immensely likeable heroine who, in The Keystone, has a much more powerful motive for embarking on her next dangerous adventure – her cousin Andrew is murdered in her house, protecting her, by men looking for an old document in her care. It is, despite all appearances to the contrary, a map. With half of it stolen, Emily has no choice but to discover the object of the map before the killers can and then wreak vengeance on them for the slaughter of Andrew. By her side is her husband Michael, also an academic. The two of them, though, can have no idea of the nature of the threat they face – a Gnostic cult, its roots grounded centuries before and now interwoven into the fabric of society. It has a plan. Liberation is at hand. Only Emily and her husband stand in the way of their destiny as the race is on to find the mysterious and ancient keystone, where X marks the spot.
It is only fair to disclose that I have an undeserved but deeply appreciated acknowledgement in The Keystone for my reading of a very early version of the first part of the novel. I had not, though, read the rest and when I saw a copy of the book for sale in an English bookshop in Paris last week I snapped it up, eager to read the rest of the story and see how it turned out. While I’d enjoyed The Lost Library a great deal, I had had some issues with it. But I didn’t have one with The Keystone. A.M. Dean has produced a polished and confident thriller that races along, shocking, alarming and puzzling, as all good thrillers should, and with characters that you really do care about and, above all else, a story or quest worthy of their bravery and courage. It is a roller coaster of a read.
The story is full of clues and warnings of danger, short chapters that spur us and Emily and Michael on, across the terrain of the Egyptian desert or through the cities of North America, hunting for something that through the centuries has changed in its nature culminating in these last few dangerous days. Supporting characters, such as Chris of the FBI, really add to the story, while the passing to and fro between different periods of history sets the chase in a rich and curious context.
As with many thrillers that involve secret organisations, you can expect red herrings, false names and hidden quests, but matched against that is the openness of Emily and Michael who work to come to terms with the death of Andrew through action. Obviously, I can’t tell you any more about it. You must discover the truth of the quest, the fun of the chase, for yourself.
I really enjoyed The Keystone – clever, mysterious and exciting til the last page. It was the perfect holiday reading and I am so pleased to be able to recommend this to all thriller lovers. I would always suggest that you start with the first of a series but The Keystone would also succeed as a stand alone adventure. I look forward to many more in the company of Emily Weiss and A.M. Dean.
The Lost Library