Ben Hope is back. And, following the revelations of The Armada Legacy and The Sacred Sword, he is not the man he once was. This would seem, then, the perfect point to tell you to stop reading if you do not not want to know what has gone before. The Nemesis Program might work perfectly well as a standalone thriller but Ben Hope carries with him more baggage than an airport luggage reclaim conveyor belt. This is the ninth book, after all. Warnings given, I shall crack on.
Everything has changed for Ben. He is about to marry Brooke and is learning hard how to be a father to his newly discovered son. His gun is retired, now his focus is on continuing his college education and becoming the churchman he always wanted to be. But, with just three days left before his marriage to Brooke in the Cathedral at Christ Church, Oxford, a face from Ben’s past turns up in the form of old flame Dr Roberta Ryder. Roberta’s friend Claudine has been murdered in Paris, expanding foam poured into her lungs by a serial killer known as ‘the handyman’. But, before she died, a terrified Claudine, frightened for her life, sent a letter to Roberta. It provided a clue to a device that governments might kill for and that everyone should fear. Claudine was no more killed by ‘the handyman’ than Ben Hope is a man made to marry. As the killers hunt for Roberta, Ben finds himself with no choice but to help her. With the future of the world at stake, it would be impossible to do otherwise. But when Ben goes on the run, or on the hunt, he leaves a trail of destruction in his wake – broken hearts just as much as broken bodies.
I am a huge fan of the Ben Hope series of thrillers and have read each and every one as soon as they’ve become available. The Nemesis Program is the ninth in the series and marks a bit of a change. After a string of high quality novels, I was disappointed by the seventh – The Sacred Sword – but the next – The Armada Legacy – felt to me like a welcome return to basics for Ben Hope. He had a clearly defined mission and the novel focused on it entirely and the result was a taut, exciting action thriller. Its only failing was, perhaps, the lack of mystery. But in The Nemesis Program that mystery is back.
The Nemesis Program combines exciting action with the further development of Ben Hope. What this man puts himself through on an almost daily basis is mindblowing and yet Scott Mariani manages to keep him not only believable but also likeable. He has more bad habits than many (the hard drinking may be a little more under control but the smoking certainly isn’t) but more than anything else he wants to do the right thing. Ben is a killer, I doubt he’d argue with that, but he’s up against the worst of villains, their victims often close to Ben. What adds an edge to The Nemesis Program is that Ben is trying to move away from this life, he’s trying to settle down and have a family. He wants to be a man of God! But is he made for that kind of life? I think the villains we meet here would think not.
The action plot here is thoroughly entertaining and pageturning, especially during the second half of the book. I enjoyed the twists and extremes. The baddies are suitably nasty as are some of the deaths. As always, the thrills are expertly written. But so, too, is the character of Ben Hope and after all these books I find it hard to think of another thriller hero I enjoy spending time with as much.
As mentioned before, The Nemesis Program can be read as a standalone thriller but, if you’ve not read this series, give yourself a treat and start at the beginning with The Alchemist’s Legacy. It is so good to see that after nine books this is a series that looks stronger than ever.