From internationally-acclaimed New York Times best-selling author Raymond Benson comes a suspense thriller that blends modern-day crime, historical figures, and fantasy.
When his ranch hand's newborn son is abducted from the hospital's maternity ward and found dead hours later in a trash dumpster, former FBI agent and West Texan Rusty "Red" River resolves to bring the perpetrators to justice. Investigation reveals that a string of similar child abduction/murders previously occurred in Texas towns between Limite and the Mexican border. They all have one peculiar signature in common: the babies' heads are marked with the Arabic equivalent to the letter "L".
River contacts his former girlfriend, a Jewish historian, to help solve the mystery. Together they uncover a bizarre plot that stretches from war-torn Iraq to Israel, Mexico, Texas, and finally Chicago.
Even stranger is the catalyst for the wickedness. A mysterious, prehistoric relic is in the possession of the killers: a talisman that has been passed down through the centuries. Saddam Hussein had it. Adolf Hitler had it. Attila the Hun once owned it. It even belonged to Judas. What exactly is the artifact of evil?
OK, it's a B movie thriller of a book: stock characters, lots of killings, good good guys, bad bad guys . . . overall it keeps moving and it has a beginning, a middle and an end so it delivers a solid book but . . .
The plot is way too "big coincidence" driven, even at times when it didn't really need to be. Additionally the main characters are very smart, except for when they need to be stupid: at one point it is painfully obvious they are being followed but they do not seem to figure this out or to do anything about it. These were the things that made me take away a star even for a 'beach reading' kind of book.
The characters are straight out of central casting, which is OK for this kind of book. The basic idea for the story is good and not so implausible as to hurt the overall effect. There are also a series of historical asides where the action stops and we get to hear anecdotes about the artifact. I'm conflicted about these: they slowed things down and padded the book but individually they were interesting and gave the book a historical sweep it wouldn't have had otherwise.
Overall it got the job done but I was a little disappointed in the final execution.
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