Seven Wonders by Ben Mezrich

Publisher: William Heinemann
Pages: 320
Year: 2014 (11 September)
Buy: Paperback, Kindle
Source: Review copy

Seven Wonders by Ben MezrichReview
In the last moments of his life, mathematical genius Jeremy Grady manages to hide a secret message for his twin brother, Jack, an anthropologist and adventurer. Jeremy had been working on research data sent from the field by Jack, a man obsessed by the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, who could have had no idea that it would prove his brother’s death warrant. Jeremy uncovered in the data clues that could change mankind’s entire view of human history, a map to the past. It is up to Jack to chase the clues, following the map around the globe, while working always to uncover the identity of the people who cut down his quiet and reclusive twin brother.

Seven Wonders, as the title suggests, presents a thriller ride around not just the Wonders of the Ancient World but also their seven modern counterparts, such as the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio. At each of the sites, a clue is hidden, left in the distant past, indicating that there is far more to the modern Wonders than meets the eye. But as Jack and his team of student helpers move backwards and forwards between the continents, they slowly start to unravel a riddle and conspiracy that could change the future of the world. Jack is joined early in his quest by a struggling academic and botanist Sloane Costa, who has just discovered traces of something rather odd below the stage of the Colosseum in Rome. But all the time they are watched and followed by someone with immense power and wealth who is just waiting for the right moment to strike.

It is difficult to imagine how any more action could have been squeezed into the pages of this relatively short thriller. There is no time for Jack, or the reader, to draw breath from beginning to end. Thousands of miles are covered with ancient and modern Wonders rushing past us as Jack and the others risk their lives and escape by a knife’s edge time after time after time. Jack is modelled upon an Indiana Jones figure (an action academic with a love of archaeology but little regard for preserving it), but even Indiana Jones would have worn himself out on this one.

The premise of the mystery is an intriguing one and I was quickly hooked by the excellent opening chapters, with the promising character of Jeremy Grady. However, by halfway through I had been exhausted by the pace and the number of ancient secrets revealed and I couldn’t wait for it all to be resolved, any which way. My patience was exasperated further by a couple of errors that I found hard to overlook, as well as the irrelevance of Jack’s assistants and the implausibility that a struggling academic such as Sloane could have persuaded her institution to fund all of these flights. Likewise, the messages coming out of the baddie seem confused – certainly their agents have trouble understanding what they are supposed to do. Despite this, though, the baddie did intrigue me and their chapters were my favourites. Jack and Sloane, on the other hand, are so busy in the novel that barely a moment is spent on letting us get to know them and neither felt believable.

I am a big fan and reader of mystery thrillers but I can suspend my sense of disbelief only so far and with Seven Wonders I had exceeded my limit very swiftly indeed. However, there are entertaining elements – it is very exciting in places – so if you’re after a beach or plane read this may do enough.

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