Andy McDermott’s Nina Wilde and Eddie Chase thrillers are among my very favourite novels. When one of these books comes out, it goes right to the top of the reading pile and, as with The Valhalla Prophecy, I’ll be there at midnight, downloading it to my kindle in its first seconds of existence in the big wide world. The Valhalla Prophecy is the ninth novel in the series and it’s been two years since the last. How I’ve missed them! But it was well worth the wait. This is thriller writing at its very best. If you were to write a recipe to create the perfect thriller and then you followed it precisely (making no short cuts), what you’d get out of the oven would be The Valhalla Prophecy.
This might be a series but it doesn’t matter too much if you read this before reading the others or read any of them out of order. Each of the novels presents a self-contained adventure but what you do get if you start at the beginning (2007’s The Hunt for Atlantis) is the huge pleasure of watching the evolution of these two fabulous characters – one Yorkshire (Eddie) and one American (Nina) – as well as the other people who have had such a big impact on their lives (looking with the evil eye at Eddie’s ex-wife Sophia, in particular). If you have read the others in the series then you’ll appreciate the moments of tenderness (admittedly they don’t last long) as Eddie and Nina discuss retiring from their lethal jobs – discovering the world’s greatest archaeological mysteries, setting off their revolting booby traps and then saving them from the world’s most evil baddies – in order to raise children. But nothing is lost if this is new to you. The back story is filled in, familiar characters are reintroduced and indeed further information is supplied.
The Valhalla Prophecy has a dual narrative for much of its length. When Nina and Eddie are persuaded to visit Sweden on the trail of a deadly black toxin, the stuff of Viking legend which, if discovered, could mean the world’s demise through cancerous plague, it awakens memories in Eddie of a mission he undertook to Vietnam eight years before during his divorce from the unparalleled Sophia. The same people are involved again and, because of his previous experiences, Eddie knows better than anyone how this Viking mystery should remain unsolved and forgotten. Unfortunately, Nina has other ideas.
Andy McDermott is a master of humorous dialogue between Nina and Eddie and other characters. The dialogue will always make me laugh. But McDermott does not shy away from evils in the world. Eddie falls back on juvenile jokes as an escape from what he has seen and in this novel we get a glimpse of it ourselves. It’s nasty and we can see why it continues to haunt Eddie and why he has made the promise he has to reveal its secrets to no-one.
The adventure is a blast from start to finish! There are gun battles, fights in planes, streets and jungles, in icey canyons and Russian military compounds (to name just a few). It is a ride and a half. There is no alternative; you must hang on! The story itself contains the right mix of history, archaeology and 21st-century threat. It’s a more intense novel than previous books in the series. It’s still funny but it is less light-hearted and it is disturbing. The Viking element is less important than it might have been in an earlier novel but The Valhalla Prophecy is an ambitious and lengthy thriller. It has well over 500 pages and each of those pages is overflowing. This book is an investment of your time. How brilliant then that it rewards you so fully. Always an excellent writer, Andy McDermott has now become a master of his genre, right up there with James Rollins.
Unputdownable, thrilling, bloody, funny and tragic – just fantastic. If you like this sort of thing, you’ll love this. I just hope so much it won’t be another two years before we see Nina and Eddie again, two characters I have come to laugh at, be frightened for and love hugely over the last few years.
Temple of the Gods