The Cassandra Sanction | Scott Mariani | 2016 | Avon | 407p | Review copy | Buy the book
Ben Hope is back! And how glad I am to see him. Scott Mariani has entertained me for years with this charismatic, deeply appealing action hero, who wants nothing more than to find the lost while doing his utmost to find the most elusive figure of them all – himself. The Cassandra Sanction is the twelfth novel in the series but it works well as a stand alone. There are hints and clues to past events, filling in some of the background for the uninitiated while giving his devoted readers a memory nudge. But, as with any outstanding and addictive series, I would certainly recommend going back to the beginning, either before or after you read this one. Ben’d like that.
Ben is on the move. Listless and aimless, he’s drifting where the mood takes him (by public transport – Ben does not have the happiest of relationships with car rental companies). We meet Ben in a bar in Spain. He’s keeping his head down, nursing his drink, but Ben has never been one to ignore the needs of an underdog and so, when a group of rowdies in search of a fight bully a young man, Ben is quick to come to his aid. Not that the young Spaniard seems to need it. He’s well able to stand up for himself, even setting one of the bullies on fire. But the young man, Raoul, is drunk and depressed, the fight soon gone from him, and he needs Ben to get him safely home. Raoul has good reason to be so down. His twin sister Catalina has just committed suicide, having driven her car off a cliff. But Raoul knows Catalina better than anyone and he is convinced that she is alive. Ben knows all there is to know about losing people he loves and he can’t stop himself. He has to help Raoul discover the truth. And when the bullets start to fly and the piles of corpses build up, Ben finds himself on yet another action hero’s busman’s holiday.
The Cassandra Sanction is an addictive thriller. This is no surprise – all of the Ben Hope books are next to impossible to put down and from the very beginning this new novel is no different. Scott Mariani knows exactly how to entrap his reader within a well-written, brilliantly-imagined, bloodpumping thrillfest, fuelled by great characters, exhilarating action sequences, astonishing situations and a puzzle that works away at your curiosity bone. Each of the Ben Hope novels is different – some are more mystery based than others. The Cassandra Sanction is one of the more action-based thrillers, with its great secret taking second place to Ben’s adventures with Raoul. This is much more of a novel about Ben, fighting the good fight against bad. As said before, it felt a little like a busman’s holiday, giving Ben a break from the turmoil and heartbreak that has followed him in recent novels and, even when he’s getting shot at (and having yet another rental car blown into smithereens), there’s a sense that this is doing him some good.
But it’s not all about Ben. I did enjoy getting to know Raoul and certain other people I don’t want to mention for spoiler purposes. We’re soon thrown into the heart of a conspiracy and there’s nothing to do but hold on and enjoy the thrills as we’re taken on a lethal world tour at breakneck speed. There’s also a dash of astronomy – I like that in a thriller.
While the mystery itself is, I have to admit, not one of the most enticing puzzles that we’ve enjoyed in the series, it’s more than compensated for by Scott Mariani’s focus on this most attractive and resourceful of heroes. Despite the novel’s bullet pace, we still manage to spend some quality time with Ben, learning just that little bit more about this fascinating man (once a theologian, at another time an SAS major) as he tries to recover his sense of direction in a world that’s gone mad – or just wants to shoot him. I count the days until adventure number thirteen, The Star of Africa.
Avon is publishing new editions of the first three Ben Hope adventures (read them, they’re fantastic!), and I’m delighted to share with you here the cover of The Mozart Conspiracy, the second in the series.
I’m so pleased to be posting this review as part of a Blog Tour – I’ve been a Ben Hope fangirl for years so I can’t tell you how chuffed I am to be a part of it. For other stops on the tour, please see the poster below.