Historical thriller is a genre that works only if there is a balance between the two genres it combines. It should have the research that makes the historical genre retain its merit, and it should have the pace and action of a thriller. It should make the reader keep turning the pages in expectation of what is to come. Ashwin Sanghi and Steve Berry do that quite well. Could Christopher Doyle join that company with his offering, The Alexander Secret, first part in the Mahabharata Quest trilogy? The cover certainly helped to generate interest in the secrets that the book held.
In the present day Greece, a tomb is discovered, believed to be that of a queen, and one that could explain a lot about Alexander III, known to the world as Alexander the Great, and his conquest of the world. But the secrets the tomb holds are valuable, more valuable than archaeologist Alice knows, and there are people who will kill for it. Against the odds, who can Alice trust?
At the same time, in India, a joint task force between the United States and India is being formed to combat terror. Though Vijay and Colin aren’t that happy about it, they know the one in-charge of it is an expert. Imran Kidwai, officer of the Indian Intelligence Bureau, finds unexplained corpses in a lab. Further examination leads to doubts of bioterrorism.
The two incidents are seemingly unrelated. But as the story progresses, it turns out that they are. The villains are on a quest, the clues for which are with Vijay, Colin and co. Ruthless as they are, the villains have a trump card up their sleeve. Will it work?
OK. Let me look at this from the two perspectives. Historical fiction… the research that has gone into this book is good. It can be seen in the parts where Christopher takes us back in time. You imagine standing there, watching Alexander, or Olympias or the other characters from history as they converse. Whereas I can’t verify that, it seems believable and it increases interest in the overall picture. The research is also seen through the voice of the archaeologists when they contemplate what they have found in the tomb.
Thriller… the book has the main qualities that a thriller would have – pace and action. The narration is crisp and it helps to keep the pages turning. The action scenes could have been better, but they’re not bad by any stretch of the imagination. The characters, though they feel similar at times, had their own qualities. And here too, the sci-fi nature of the lab crime scene felt interesting.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve read my fair share of thrillers, that towards the end, I could guess what was going to happen. And when it happens exactly as I guess, it takes the punch away from the read. There are a lot of threads left open, which the author mentions will be dealt with in the sequel. But I’d have liked it if not so many were left open. Sometimes, the scenes feel rushed, like the author just wanted to end it soon.
This is a good start to a series, but I hope the second part is much better than this one, and that it comes to light before the excitement of this one completely dies down.
Title: The Alexander Secret
Series: The Mahabharata Quest #1
Author: Christopher Doyle
Genre: Historical Thriller
Price: INR 295
(29th November 2014)