Avon | 2016 (17 November) | 426p (+ 40p short story) | Review copy | Buy the book
Ben Hope is back! Just the thought is enough to get my heart pumping faster. Thrillers do not get better than this series and The Devil’s Kingdom is all that I hoped for.
But before you read any further, a warning. The Devil’s Kingdom might be the fourteenth Ben Hope thriller but it’s actually more meaningful to call it the second and final part of a two-part story begun with Star of Africa earlier this year. These two novels are effectively one book cut in two and so you’d have to be bonkers to read The Devil’s Kingdom without having read and hyperventilated through Star of Africa first. The good news is that from Thursday 17 November both books will be available which means that you can read both books in one go! Or you can see how this fantastic story is resolved. I should mention that you don’t need to have met Ben Hope before to enjoy and be thrilled by Star of Africa. This review from now on assumes you’ve read the earlier book.
It’s no easy thing to review a book that is really the second half of another because I don’t want to give anything away. So, suffice to say that The Devil’s Kingdom begins with Ben, Jude and their colleagues facing an uncertain but most definitely horrendous and probably very short future in deepest Africa at the hands of a man who, quite possibly, is the most horrible monster I’ve encountered in a thriller. And working for him are a bunch of other men who rank only a little lower down the monster scale of evil. The odds for Ben are not good and it doesn’t help that he can’t stop worrying about his son Jude who, to all intents and purposes, is being held as a hostage for his good behaviour. Not a good situation to be in for a man who is driven to smash evil to pieces wherever he finds it.
That is all I’ll say about what actually happens in these pages. What you need to know instead is that, just like Star of Africa, The Devil’s Kingdom is an absolute cracker of a pageturner. Ben Hope lives and breathes under the skilful direction of Scott Mariani, an author who knows all there is to know about how to concoct the perfect thriller while investing so much care in a hero, Ben Hope, that so many of us love. And because we know Ben so well after all these years we care deeply. Ben might be verging on the superhero but he has his flaws, as he himself would admit, and he never seems completely invincible. Scott Mariani likes to shock and even Ben Hope doesn’t feel totally safe. And that just adds to the tension and the suspense.
These two novels are very different from the other twelve that precede them. This story isn’t a quest, Ben hasn’t been hired to solve a mystery or find a missing person. Instead, it is a deeply personal mission and, with no doubt at all, it feels the most real and the most dangerous. As I’ve mentioned, both books stand alone well from the others but, if you have read the ones that go before then there is the added value of knowing the background to Ben and to his relationship with his son Jude. Nevertheless, even without that prior knowledge, these are action thrillers at their best.
The two books, because they are more frighteningly real than the others, are also far more violent and shocking, evoking the terrors of the Rwanda civil war in the early 1990s. Scott Mariana does not shy away from his subject and sections of the story are difficult to read for that reason. There is an ethical debate too. Is it right to use violence to defeat violence? Ben Hope doesn’t usually spend much time thinking about such matters but this is no normal Ben Hope thriller.
I knew that The Devil’s Kingdom would be good. How could it not be when it follows and concludes the superb Star of Africa? It did not disappoint. The Devil’s Kingdom is arguably a little less grim but that’s possibly because it’s the final part. The action never lets up for a moment, becoming in places breathtakingly tense, and reflecting how cleverly put together this novel is. You’d expect nothing else from a Ben Hope thriller. I’m looking forward to raving about this series for many years to come!
The paperback includes ‘The Tunnel’, a Ben Hope short story (40 pages) set in the Scottish Highlands during the Christmas of 2004, as well as a couple of preview chapters from the next Ben Hope thriller, The Babylon Idol, expected in early June 2017. The wait will not be an easy one…
Ben Hope 7: The Sacred Sword
Ben Hope 8: The Armada Legacy
Ben Hope 9: The Nemesis Program
Ben Hope 10: The Forgotten Holocaust
Ben Hope 11: The Martyr’s Curse
Ben Hope 12: The Cassandra Sanction
Ben Hope 13: Star of Africa