Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Really Nice Review from Midwest Book Review

By Diane Donovan, eBook reviewer, Midwest Book Review

The Last Ancient blends mythology, mystery and action and opens with an investigation of deer mutilations: something aNantucket reporter initially believes to be related to poaching. And who better to investigate than Simon, who makes his living as an environmental reporter?

It all seems predictable; but that's where the familiar ends as Simon uncovers a conspiracy centered on alchemy, finds mysterious gold coins pepper his every move, and begins to accept the existence of mythical creatures against all logic.

So what begins as a relatively simple investigation turns into a complex blend of mystery and supernatural exploration as Simon becomes involved in the impossible task of killing a mythological creature wrecking havoc on Nantucket.

The mysterious coins even implicate his own family heritage in events that unfold and engage him not only in their mystery but in the challenge of handling a fiancée who has gone over the edge.

To call this a 'murder mystery' is simplification at its worst: The Last Ancient is actually an action-packed thriller, more accurately, and belongs on the shelves of readers looking for spicy, darker, sexier Indiana Jones-style sagas that reel off subplot after subplot.

It's hard to believe The Last Ancient is a debut novel: the author's approach and writing skills seem those of an experienced thriller writer, not a newcomer, what with its attention to detail that submerges readers in a 'you are there' feel throughout the story, evident from the very first line: "The deer’s blood catches the golden hour light. It radiates throughout the animal’s carcass in fall hues that reflect the island’s rustling red leaves and honey-colored needles littering the sand. Such eerie, blasphemous beauty. I fire shots from my Nikon."

One must also note that Eliot Baker's use of the first person has a lot to do with his device of immersing readers in not just the plot, but Simon's life and experiences. Readers follow Simon's logic in piecing the puzzle together and will relish his encounters with his tense fiancée as well: “You don’t return my calls for a day and a half, Simon? A day and a half? Really? The whole world sees you on TV talking about murders and mad deer but your fiancée, who lives down the street from you, can’t even get a text to say you’re alive? Are you serious?

The island setting is perfect for containing not only characters that can't easily flee events, but for the murderers and mythical creatures Simon has come to believe in against all logic: "We are thirty miles out at sea with a murderer.” “Then the poor bastard’s got nowhere to hide,” I say. Judy doesn’t laughI can’t tell Judy about the Gryphon. That it could have killed me, or let me die, but instead saved me. Loved me. I’m safe. I’ve always been safe on Nantucket. Perhaps even under Her protection. And I’m not convinced She was Dennis’s killer. His wound was different, according to Dr. Mulcahey."

What Simon uncovers will change not only his world, but his own personality, goals, and life perspectives. It will also end some relationships and forge new paths: "Judy tries to bubble about things that escape my interest as we type. I don’t want to speculate on who bailed out my paper, or whether the gold standard will be approved by the President and Congress, or if the newest art house movie about biker gangs in Sweden is Oscar-worthy. I don’t care about interest rates falling, that it’s a buyer’s market in Manhattan and LA, that Hal wants to give us a million-dollar interest-free loan, and I’m positively disinterested in what we should bring to a wine and cheese party tomorrow with her Yale friends. My heart is no longer in this world, her world, and every syllable of pretending otherwise feels like a slithering lie to her and a filthy betrayal of my true love, my true self, my true god."

And perhaps that's The Last Ancient's greatest strength: its ability to pinpoint and follow the transitions of its protagonist, who finds that everything he's believed about himself and his world is different. In the process of these revelations Simon's real identity emerges. And then comes the special challenge of either fitting that new knowledge into the rest of his life or forging an entirely new direction in the world.

In truth, Simon's course has been set long before his knowledge of these other worlds and choices. In such a world Simon's powers as the ultimate healer and killer will emerge, and against this backdrop even evil gets another chance.

Without spoiling any of the intrigue, suffice it to say that readers will be captivated from the first chapter and will be immersed in a supernatural mystery that gets more complex with every turn, leading to a bloody battle with more at stake than a few dead deer or one man's revelations.


  1. Well written review, couldn't have said it better myself ;). It is one book I will read again, and again !

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