Dr Nina Wilde, famous archaeologist, and her husband, proud Yorkshireman and ex-SAS soldier Eddie Chase, are back! The couple are enjoying a once in a lifetime round the world trip, Nina having resigned her position as Director of the UN’s International Heritage Agency. But when they reach Los Angeles, meeting up with old friends Macy and her movie star boyfriend, Nina is approached by a young man with a German accent who pleads for her help, handing over a plan he should not have of the tomb of Alexander the Great (previously discovered by Nina). Somewhere in the tomb lies a statue which contains the secret of an ancient Spring of Immortality. But before he can say more the young man is gunned down and the chase is on, Nina and Eddie pursued across the city in a hunt that will take them across the world and back again.
The adventure – and the plot – is a corker. It is so easy to suspend your disbelief with these thrillers largely because Nina and Eddie are such real creations, especially now that we reach the tenth novel of their adventures. Neither Nina or Eddie are perfect – Eddie is no oil painting but the charm of the man, not to mention his courage, warmth and absolutely appalling sense of humour, make him one of the most appealing heroes of any series that I’ve read. His puns might be horrendous (and his taste in women might have gone a bit awry in the past) but happily married to lovely, strong and clever Nina (who likes a glass of wine and can laugh at some of Eddie’s jokes), he has come into his own. They bicker and argue but there is no doubt that Eddie would, and does, follow Nina anywhere she wants as she obeys the pull of her archaeological passion. This is fortunate because nine times out of ten Nina will be in need of a good bodyguard.
The baddies in Kingdom of Darkness are especially nasty – Nazis. The evil that they once wrought could come alive again if Nina, Eddie, and the delightful Macy, don’t manage to reach the target first. The origin of the mystery lies with Alexander the Great, which gives the novel plenty of scope to play around with the myth of the king. Eddie is never one to be afraid of voicing his opinions and there are some intriguing ideas here about Alexander and power. The fact that Eddie has to work with Mossad, the Israeli military secret service, for much of the novel also adds to the tension and Eddie’s unease.
A fair amount of the novel comprises non-stop, relentless extreme action. Most forms of transport known or imagined by man are involved at one point or another. The result is that the pages fly through the fingers so fast it is blistering. But it’s not all action and mayhem, there are other scenes here of such tragedy and heartbreak that they didn’t just make me weep, they made me weep on the bus!
The Wilde/Chase thrillers by Andy McDermott are fabulous novels, feeding my impatience as soon as I hear that a new one is on the way. Fortunately, Kingdom of Darkness follows swiftly on the heels of the superb The Valhalla Prophecy. This is just as well because everything that happens in Kingdom of Darkness is coloured by the events of the previous novel, not so much for the plot’s action but for Nina and Eddie. Having said all that, Kingdom of Darkness would work very well as a standalone novel. Everything that the reader needs to know is revealed very early on and in a way that I think would be very effective. If you have read all the novels in turn then this revelation still manages to shock.
As this series has progressed, the thrillers have become increasingly accomplished, confident and rounded. The characters of Nina and Eddie are so well developed they appear almost to have a life of their own and their story has become arguably the most important aspect of the books. The plots are always exciting, pacey and gobsmacking but now they have become that little bit less fanciful (though still pleasingly imaginative and extraordinary). The runaway train action is matched by heart, with many laugh out loud lines as well as other scenes of devastating sadness or cruelty. What a fantastic series!
Adam Gray series
The Shadow Protocol (or The Persona Protocol)