The Genesis Secret
Review: Tom Knox's debut thriller, The Genesis Secret, which combines a historical quest with a modern murder mystery, has a promising start but ultimately disappoints.
Rob Luttrell, a reporter in the Middle East for a British newspaper, is known for accepting the most dangerous assignments. But when his editor asks him to cover an archaeological dig in a remote area of southeastern Turkey he's disappointed. Still, he feels a break from the action may be just what he needs. Not long after his arrival the lead archaeologist on site, Franz Brietner, is murdered, impaled on a pole at the dig. Intrigued by why Brietner was killed, Rob presses forward to get the true story. Back in England, Detective Chief Inspector Mark Forrester has a series of gruesome murders on his hands. His investigation leads him to believe the murders were not committed for the usual reasons, but as random ritualistic killings. He also learns the culprit may not only be sadistic and cruel, but also brilliant and cunning and from one of the country's finest families.
For more than half the book, The Genesis Secret alternates between these two storylines. The archaeological dig in Turkey is based on a real site that has received a fair amount of attention in the news, its location being near the Turkey / Iraq border in the disputed region of Kurdistan. Given the book's title, it probably isn't giving away too much to say the real archaeologists and the fictional ones think they've found the Garden of Eden, a site that is mentioned (in one way or another) in multiple religions, though its significance differs depending on various religious interpretations. This part of the story is interesting in and of itself but isn't really developed much beyond the facts already published. Though information about the site is not known to have been written in any form through the ages, a (fictional) "Black Book" is suspected to hold the key to its existence.
The ritualistic murders in England (and, as it turns out, elsewhere) is initially a far more intriguing foundation for the book, as far as it goes. Unfortunately, the inevitable link between the murders and the archaeological site is a tenuous one at best and is really never credible. The story subsequently morphs into an oddly unimaginative action adventure tale that generates little suspense or interest in the final outcome.
Part of the problem in the final third of the book is that the author frequently takes convenient shortcuts to advance the plot presumably assuming the reader won't notice. One of the most glaring of these is a scholar who has been lashed to a chair, his captors putting "a sweaty gag around his mouth and tied it ferociously tight, making his lips bleed as the gag pressed against his incisors." After having a procedure called the "blood eagle" performed (it's really far too ghastly to say any more here), he's somehow able to grasp a nearby pen in his mouth (still gagged) and write an important clue for Rob and Forrester to follow before he dies. It would be silly if it weren't so horrific and obviously impossible.
In the end, there's little to recommend The Genesis Secret, which is really rather unfortunate since its premise seemingly had so much to offer.
Acknowledgment: Penguin Group provided a copy of The Genesis Secret for this review.
Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
The Marks of Cain
Viking (Hardcover), May 2010
ISBN-13: 9780670021918; ISBN-10: 0670021911
Location(s) referenced in The Genesis Secret: England, Turkey
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The Genesis Secret by Tom Knox
Publication Date: May 2009
List Price: $26.95