Monday, August 20, 2007

On the Fifth Day - A. J. Hartley

On The Fifth Day
A.J. Hartley


Thomas Knight’s life has not quite followed the path he expected. At thirty-seven, he’s been fired from his beloved job as a high school teacher. He’s got no prospects, and virtually no funds. And then comes word that his brother, Father Edward Knight, is dead. His brother died in the Philippines, but that’s pretty much all anyone will tell him. He can’t even get information from the American embassy. Although the brothers had grown apart over the past several years, Thomas makes the trip to Edward’s rectory to go through his meager possessions.

At the rectory, Father Jim tells Thomas that Edward was engaged in research for a book on early Christian symbology. This subject holds very little interest for Thomas, until someone breaks into Edward’s room and steals a seemingly worthless trinket. At loose ends, anyway, and feeling that he owes something to his late brother, Thomas begins to retrace Edward’s steps on a trail that begins in Italy and leads to Japan and Manila. Clearly, Edward was onto something. Just as clearly, there are people who are more than willing to kill to keep that ‘something’ buried.

Thomas is a great sort of ‘everyman’ character. He’s a teacher looking at middle age, trying to resolve his feelings about his dead brother. There are deadly assassins chasing him, but the author makes it clear that any escape is the product of native intelligence and a bit of luck instead of some super abilities. While the story begins a bit slowly and appears to meander a bit in the first third, the author is really laying some important groundwork. Even so, I was hooked from the beginning.

The novel really hits its stride when the action moves to Italy and Thomas begins putting pieces of the puzzle together. There are some nifty plot twists that keep things interesting, along with a wealth of historical information. Readers who enjoy historical/archaeological thrillers, you won’t want to miss this one.

Rating: 8
July 2007
ISBN# 978-0-425-21626-6 (paperback)


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