Avon | 2017 (4 May) | 448p | Review copy | Buy the book
If anyone deserves a rest it’s Ben Hope but not a chance. Barely days after his return to his French home and sanctuary, Le Val, having narrowly escaped his last mission with his life, Ben is thrown into the thick of it once more. And in the most shocking of ways. When out fixing a fence on the estate with his best friend and business partner Jeff, Jeff takes a bullet to the chest, shot by a sniper out of sight. First, Ben must deal with the shock as emergency services and police descend on Le Val. But that is soon followed by cold rage when, to distract himself, Ben opens a letter that arrived for him while he was away. An old enemy has written from his Italian prison cell to warn him that one of Ben’s greatest foes has almost literally risen from the dead, determined to seek vengeance on those who destroyed his plans years before. It’s then that Ben realises that the bullet was not intended for Jeff. It was meant for him.
And so begins a cat and mouse chase across Europe as Ben Hope fights to keep alive those on the deathlist, particularly his old colleague Professor Anna Manzini. Doing their best to stay one foot ahead of snipers and thugs, Ben and Anna realise that there might be more going on than they first thought. That this evil monster has learned the subject of Anna’s current research – the long lost and immensely valuable Babylon Idol – and he is going to find it first, over Ben and Anna’s dead bodies if at all possible.
The Babylon Idol might be the fifteenth Ben Hope novel but these fantastic thrillers are as fresh, vivid and brilliantly exciting as ever. Ben Hope is most definitely and assuredly my favourite action hero in fiction and this series is unequalled. I’ve read and adored every single one. It’s particularly proven itself over the last few years with a sequence of thrillers that retains a quality of writing and plot that is astonishing, time after time after time, two books published a year. Last year’s novels – Star of Africa and The Devil’s Kingdom – were phenomenal, forming a mini two-book sequence of their own. Scott Mariani has followed those with a return to Ben’s more traditional roots – following an archaeological or historical mystery while in pursuit of evil – but the quality is absolutely maintained.
The plot of The Babylon Idol is fantastic, with just the right amount of historical background to complement the explosive action. Car rental companies do not like Ben Hope and this thriller yet again shows why – no car is safe with Ben Hope. And not just cars either. All manner of vehicles bear the brunt (not to mention a fair few human beings) as Ben and Anna hurl themselves across Europe and Syria, chased by a seemingly endless supply of villains and brutes. Having just returned from a holiday in Florence, I’m rather relieved that Ben manages to leave most of it still standing.
The surprising thing is that I still feel that Ben Hope is mortal – that a stray bullet could still finish him off. This is because he seems real, despite the heroics and his SAS skills. I read each book worried that this will be the one that sees him carried off. I’ve loved Ben Hope for years. I want him to have a long and safe retirement with his gauloise and whisky.
If you’ve not read a Ben Hope novel before then you could certainly read The Babylon Idol with no trouble at all. But you would miss out on some of Ben’s complicated relationships. A few people pop into this novel who might seem superfluous if you didn’t already know the part they’ve played in Ben’s life – not to mention the baddie who we have seen before. But, despite all that, this is Ben in fresh territory in a thriller that stands alone very well indeed. It’s good to have books like this every so often in a long sequence of novels. They can pull new readers in. I really hope this one does. But Ben Hope has a host of fans who love him, me among them (if you haven’t guessed that already) and The Babylon Idol did just the job. It gives us the chance to relax and enjoy the thrills after the intense and violent drama of the previous two novels. I couldn’t gobble it up fast enough and I loved every action-packed page.
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 11: Star of Africa and Ben Hope 12: The Devil’s Kingdom