Wednesday, October 26, 2011
REVIEW: Pandora's Grave
Title: Pandora’s Grave
Author: Stephen England
Price: $19.99 (paperback) / $3.99 (Kindle / Smashwords)
Point of Sale: Author’s website
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib
As promised, here’s a review of one of the four books that recently came my way, the thriller Pandora’s Grave by Stephen England. The premise is simple – a group of American and Israeli archeologists working in Iran discover in the ruins of an ancient city an especially virulent form of bubonic plague. This attracts the attention of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, who kidnap the researchers with a goal of exploiting the plague as a weapon.
The CIA, not aware of the plague but knowing Americans have gone missing, sends in Harry Nichols and his team to get the Americans out. But apparently there’s a mole in the CIA, as the Iranians are waiting for Harry. Let’s just say things get complicated from there.
One of the ways to dismiss a book, especially a thriller, is to call it “formulaic.” This is unfair to thrillers, or for that matter any work of fiction. All fiction has certain formulas, also called conventions, which need to be followed in order to meet the readers’ expectations. It’s the difference between a well-executed recipe and throwing random stuff into a pot then calling it dinner.
So, yes, Pandora’s Grave does follow the thriller formula, but, with one minor exception, the formula is well-executed. The paperback clocks in at 422 pages, but the book is a real page-turner, and delivers a lot of high-voltage thrills. England has a couple of opportunities to engage in cheap sentimentality which he avoids while keeping his characters believable. My one nit was the identity of the mole – England spent too much time painting one of two suspects as the mole, leading me to automatically suspect the other person.
One of the highest forms of praise in the self-published world is to say that the book was just as good as the best commercially-published works in its genre. Well, Pandora’s Grave is just as good as any Ludlum or Carre novel. If you like thrillers, or just entertaining reading, you should read Pandora’s Grave.