Publisher: Taylor Trade
Year: 2014 (7 January)
Source: Review copy
The secrets hidden within Nero’s Golden Palace in Rome are about to be revealed. Forensic archaeologist and trustee of the American Academy of Rome, Tom Stewart, is one of many drawn to watch in person as the shaft into the palace is opened by his friend Doc Brown in full view of the world’s cameras. But within minutes of their descent, Doc Brown and his assistant fall quiet. They are found dead in an underground passageway, their eyes open, their bodies covered in green powder. The authorities conclude that they died from a virus and from that moment on Tom is caught up in the race to uncover the truth about the deadly contagion that could outkill the Spanish Flu. He must find its source before it is used to hold the world to ransom. Tom, as a friend of Doc’s, has a target on his back.
It turns out that the virus is as old as the palace itself, possibly older, and Tom’s search for its origins takes him into the ruins of ancient Rome as well as into and under the monuments of more recent years. The Vatican itself has a role to play here and it’s not just modern conspiracies that Tom must investigate. By his side is the well-connected Italian archaeological student Alexandra Cellini and together they unravel clues that take them beyond Rome and across Europe. Sometimes the mouse has to become the cat.
I really enjoyed The Moses Virus. It’s a relatively short novel and can be read quickly. It has a real pace to it as the urgency grows and Tom and Alex get warmer. While I think its narrative could do with tightening up and focusing, I thought the author’s enthusiasm for archaeology and for telling a good tale shone through and I was won over by the plot and by the leading characters. I liked Tom very much indeed. This is also a thriller that is more careful about throwing away human life. I liked that, too.
There are elements that are harder to accept, such as why Tom should be such a target, and this applies to certain characters too (the blonde bombshell Crystal Close in particular). But these complaints are minor and didn’t detract me at all from my enjoyment of the novel or from the appeal of Tom as an earnest, gentle and likeable hero. The real star of The Moses Virus, though, is Rome itself. The Rome setting is second to none and Tom Hyland clearly knows the city inside out – its history, buildings and its institutions, past and present. I read The Moses Virus shortly after I returned from a trip to Rome and the descriptions brought it all flooding back.
The city of Rome is a great backdrop for a thoroughly entertaining thriller and I look forward with pleasure to Jack Hyland’s next novel.