Ben Hope is at a crossroads in his life. Turning his back on his job and home in France, Ben rents a cottage close to his former property on the Irish coast, now transformed into a hotel. One night on the shore he meets one of its guests, Kristen, who, over a bottle of Laphroaig in his cottage, tells Ben about her work. She is a journalist, researching the lives of an aristocratic family that lived in Ireland during the 1840s. However, her attention has been distracted by something else that she has discovered, something that could turn out to be huge. But before she can tell Ben what that is, Kristen is murdered before Ben’s eyes. From that instant, Ben is determined to discover Kristen’s secret, to find out what it was that was worth killing her for, and to avenge this young woman, killed without mercy, who he’d been unable to save.
The Forgotten Holocaust is the tenth novel in a fabulous series that I have read and loved for years. But, although the book makes brief mention of the life that Ben has turned his back on, it can be read very easily as a standalone novel. In a series as long as this one, I like that new readers can pop in and out, not having to commit to reading all of them in a row, and The Forgotten Holocaust works very well indeed as a way in. Of course, if you start here, the chances are that you’ll then want to go straight back to where it all began with the superb The Alchemist’s Secret.
Ben Hope himself is a marvellous character. His moods seesaw all over the place, his drinking habit has a life of its own, and he desperately wants to make the world a better place, working above all else to protect the innocent and put right injustices. His superb name sums him up – a James Bond figure who is ultimately a good man despite his ability to commit deadly violence and who makes the world a better place by removing a fair few of the bad people in it. Ben’s religious sensibilities, which have popped up in other novels, are almost entirely absent here. Ben is on a mission and he is as determined and tunnel-visioned as we’ve ever seen him. He cannot cope with the fact that Kristen was killed right in front of him. He has to pull himself together, put the past behind him, get back into shape, and strike down the evil that for a short while at least had him beaten.
Often in these novels there is a mystery element and The Forgotten Holocaust is no different, taking the reader back in time to one of the darkest periods in Irish history, the great famine of the late 1840s. Scott Mariani does this so well. He fascinates and informs while at the same time reminding us of just how truly appalling this time was. I now want to find out much more for myself, the mark of a good novel.
There is action (and violence) galore, with another thrilling story set in Oklahoma running parallel to Ben’s for a time. As the novel moves across oceans and lands, the tempo builds until, at least for this reader, The Forgotten Holocaust became impossible to put down.
The standard of the Ben Hope thrillers is consistently high and it’s such a highlight of the reading year to meet up with Ben again. The last couple of novels have been particularly excellent and I’m delighted to see that The Forgotten Holocaust continues this trend.