When I read Apocalypse, the last Ethan Warner thriller from Dean Crawford, I was left with the feeling that this was a series on the verge of great things. Its mix of adrenalin-pumping action with a barely-there supernatural twist is hugely appealing. Anything is possible but also made believable, thanks to stories grounded with a generous helping of science, excellent prose and atmosphere. In The Chimera Secret, this summer’s addition to the series, everything comes together in the perfect balance and the result is a thriller that kept me awake well into the night, was unputdownable, was horrifying and compulsive, and without doubt one of my favourite adventure reads of 2013.
As with any good book, The Chimera Secret stands alone well and you don’t need to have read the preceding three novels. But I think you’ll find after reading The Chimera Secret that you’ll want to. There is mention in this new thriller of events in the earlier books, although not enough to spoil them, but by the end of The Chimera Secret it’s clear that two stories have emerged, one of which goes beyond the events of this novel, and from now on we and the characters are on a course that began long ago and is now fully focused and resolute. As a result of that, I’m now going to read the first two (Immortal and Covenant) before going any further because I want to dig out some clues for myself. It doesn’t hurt that I also like Ethan Warner so much.
But, as I say, The Chimera Secret does stand well alone as a thoroughly exciting, hugely enjoyable monster story. For much of the novel we and our extremely likeable leads (Ethan and Lopez) along with a bunch of locals and military are on a hunt through the mountainous forests of Idaho looking for a mythological beast, the Sasquatch. It’s soon abundantly clear that the hunted may be the one doing the hunting and before long it’s a race against the clock to survive in one piece. Literally.
A monster novel such as this you want to be frightening, chilling and richly, terrifyingly descriptive. The monster must be believable. You must accept it could be out there, living among the trees and rocks, miles from any road or house, preceded by a horrible, odious stink of sweat, dirt and rot, scattering all other living things in complete and utter terror. That’s what you want and that’s what Dean Crawford delivers. There is a wider mystery here, though, and so chapters alternate between the forest and that other place of potential horror and evil, not to mention death, Washington DC and its secret government agencies. The structure drives the pace and story on until very quickly The Chimera Secret becomes impossible to put down. Above all else, though, I really wanted to know more about these beasts in the remote forests. Yes, the military don’t win any intelligence prizes and yes you have to suspend disbelief, this is a monster novel after all, but you may well find yourself more than willing to do so and The Chimera Secret is well worth it.
Dean Crawford is an exciting and, I’m delighted to say, prolific writer, mixing conventionally-published thrillers with self-published novels such as the apocalyptic Eden. The Eternity Project, the next Ethan Warner thriller, is published this December and I would strongly recommend that you read at least The Chimera Secret before it. All hell is about to break loose.