Avon | 2017 (16 November) | 388p | Review copy | Buy the book
Welcome to the 16th Ben Hope thriller by Scott Mariani! Like most of the books in this truly brilliant action thriller series, you can read The Bach Manuscript on its own with no trouble at all. But if you’ve read and adored them all as I have done and do, then you’ll have the added pleasure of knowing Ben’s colourful past as well as understanding a little about what makes this extraordinary man tick. But it’s worth bearing in mind that Ben’s life has moved on in so many ways since the early books.
Things have settled down a little for Ben Hope. For once he has the chance to develop his security business in France and that means a brief visit to England to investigate some new military hardware. It also gives him the opportunity to return to the University of Oxford and Christ Church College for a reunion. Ben has a dose of nostalgia. Few of his friends from University are still around but there’s one, Nick Hawthorne, who Ben would love to see again. Nick is now an internationally-renowned musician and he will be giving a recital at the reunion and Ben does not want to miss it. At a private party at Nick’s house in North Oxford, while Ben and Nick enjoy catching up, Ben spots an old and stained musical manuscript. Nick is adamant it’s a fake but Ben isn’t so sure – it certainly looks like it could be a lost work by Johann Sebastian Bach. And that stain on it – could it be blood?
But when Nick is found brutally murdered at his home, the manuscript stolen, Ben is determined to avenge the death of his friend and that means tracking down the priceless manuscript. The hunt takes Ben across Europe into the domain of one of the most evil characters Ben has ever faced, which is certainly saying something. The clues unravel the past of this manuscript which was lost during Europe’s darkest days – the Holocaust.
I’ve been reading Scott Mariani’s Ben Hope thrillers for years and I think it’s fair to say that this is my favourite of all series and Ben Hope is quite possibly my favourite of all heroes. Over the years we’ve gone through so much with Ben, we’ve experienced all of the heartache and trauma, as well as love and friendship. I can’t thank Scott Mariani enough for writing two of these thrillers a year. My habit is being kept well fed and it appreciates it. The Bach Manuscript went to the top of my reading pile when it arrived, as every single one of these books always will.
The first third or so of The Bach Manuscript represents a bit of a change of pace for Ben Hope. He’s reliving his past in Oxford and this gives him the opportunity to reminisce about the young man he once was while a student there. It’s fascinating to see him as he was, while loving the man he’s become (I’m rather overlooking the fact that he could kill a gang of five thugs with a single bus ticket). It also means we’re taken on a tour of Oxford. Oxford is my home town and so I’m pleased to say that the small city is presented with all of its streets and monuments in the right places. Although I must say that I was a little concerned at its depiction of bus travel in Oxford as being a violent and dangerous thing to do – not least because the bus in question is MY bus! But I did enjoy Ben’s sojourn in Oxford, especially as it took him to some of my favourite places. As a result, I retraced his footsteps on Saturday through Christ Church Meadow. So good to have Ben visit!
Once Ben leaves Oxford then we’re in more typical Ben Hope territory as he sets off in pursuit of baddies as evil as evil can be. It’s thrilling stuff and the pages race through the fingers. While this probably isn’t my favourite of stories for this series (there are sixteen of them, after all), it certainly makes the heart beat faster and I couldn’t put it down.
I love all the little touches of humour, of Ben’s humanity, and his interaction with others he meets who help or hinder him in his quest. The car chases are always particularly fun and there are more than enough explosions and gunfights to satisfy the action thriller enthusiast in me. I always enjoy the books in the series which involve a quest and that’s what we have here.
I can’t praise this series enough. I hope it never ends. If I could read them all day, everyday for a month I would. So, if you haven’t read any before, give yourselves a treat and dive in, at the beginning or with one of these later books. Ben Hope is waiting.
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 and Ben Hope 14: The Devil’s Kingdom
Ben Hope 15: The Babylon Idol