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The Marks of Cain

by Tom Knox

The Marks of Cain by Tom Knox

Review: Tom Knox explores controversial historical efforts to identify — and exploit — potential — and speculative — human speciation in his second religiopolitical thriller The Marks of Cain.

Upon the death of his grandfather, who was living in Phoenix, media lawyer David Martinez inherits $2 million but with a catch: he must take an old-fashioned road map of southern France and northern Spain, marked with little blue asterisks that indicate churches in the area, find a man named José Garovillo in the Spanish town of Lesaka, and show him the map. No other instructions. In the UK, crime reporter Simon Quinn is investigating the mysterious murders of three individuals, each elderly and each wealthy, though nothing was stolen from them. His investigation reveals that the only thing the three had in common was they were from the Basque region of Europe, an area to the west of the Pyrenees on the border between France and Spain. On a hunch, he searches for other deaths with similar characteristics … and learns of at least two, one in Canada and one in Arizona, and discovers that the grandson of the latter one is in Europe on a mission. Intrigued by what appears to be a sudden — and murderous — interest in the Basque country, the two men seek to reveal a long-hidden secret, one that some will kill to prevent happening.

Knox excels at meticulous research — some passages come across as decidedly professorial, and in the abstract are quite fascinating — but this effort doesn't translate into a coherent, credible thriller. The author, for example, seems obsessed with depicting, often in lurid and gruesome detail, scenes of violence or horror and in particular those of esoteric forms of torture or death. These scenes are rarely integral to the story, most serving at best the gratuitous purpose of punching up the plot during a particularly long stretch of rather unimaginative narrative. Another diverting technique used by the author, primarily to transition from one scene to another, there otherwise being no logical way of doing so, is to have a character defy death in a most spectacular manner.

There's a whisper of an outline for a thriller in The Marks of Cain, and though it isn't well developed or refined, it is replete with weakly defined characters, eye-rolling dialog ("Yep", he answered. "I'm thinking blood money. Or ..." He paused, as if for effect. "Or Nazi gold."), and singularly implausible action sequences. The final result here is far from compelling or, for that matter, interesting or thrilling.

Acknowledgment: Penguin Group provided a copy of The Marks of Cain for this review.

Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …

Mystery Book Review: The Genesis Secret by Tom KnoxThe Genesis Secret
Viking (Hardcover), May 2009
ISBN-13: 9780670020881; ISBN-10: 0670020885

Location(s) referenced in The Marks of Cain: England, France, Spain, Basque Country

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The Marks of Cain by Tom Knox

The Marks of Cain by

Publisher: Viking
Format: Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-0-670-02191-8
Publication Date:
List Price: $26.95

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