The 34th Degree
Review: After the US government gets word that an ancient chemical formula that could produce a modern weapon of mass destruction may fall into the hands of a neo-Nazi organization, former counterterrorism agent Sam Deker is assigned to recover the data using an experimental neurological procedure in The 34th Degree, the second mystery in this series by Thomas Greanias.
After the events outlined in the previous book in this series (not reviewed here), Deker is considered damaged goods by the authorities. That is until scientists realize that he is particularly amenable, indeed uniquely suited, to participating, living if you will, in a virtual community, but one in which the people are real, not imagined avatars. That these real people are dead is of no consequence; their memories are permanently implanted in their brain tissue, which can be used to provide the backdrop to Deker's investigation … which is to find the formula for Greek Fire, believed to be described in a biblical document, the Marantha text, that was stolen by the Germans from the Greek monks protecting it during World War II, but its current whereabouts are unknown.
All thrillers, especially those that incorporate paranormal elements, tend to require the reader to suspend disbelief to one degree or another. The 34th Degree is one of those that demands it be suspended entirely. It's an odd cross between any of the Indiana Jones movies and the film Inception, with some time travel thrown in for good measure. Given its length — some 470 pages — one might think there would be more of a setup than there is, gradually pulling the reader into its premise, but no, Sam Deker is hooked up to a machine — "[He] felt a surge of energy coming into his head, then a blinding light, and finally, a black tunnel engulfed him." — and is sent back to 1943 at the end of Chapter 10, page 35. And that's after a 17 page, five chapter prologue. (An aside: What is it with thrillers and super-short chapters?) To be fair, the narrative is fast-paced and it doesn't take long to get immersed in the adventure. But it's also easy to forget why Deker is doing this, what the point of the whole exercise is. Fans of action-packed, historical political thrillers will no doubt enjoy The 34th Degree but for others it's likely to be the equivalent of an amusement park ride: entertaining in the moment but eminently forgettable afterwards.
Acknowledgment: Simon & Schuster provided a copy of The 34th Degree for this review.
Review Copyright © 2011 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in The 34th Degree: Greece
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The 34th Degree by Thomas Greanias — A Sam Deker Mystery
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: June 2011
List Price: $24.00