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The Alexander Cipher
Will Adams
Grand Central Publishing 2009
336 pages Hardcover

A good mystery novel has impact. It kidnaps your mind and senses from moment one, evoking excitement, suspense, and the need to read. The prologue of The Alexander Cipher accomplishes that and more and serves as a shining example of mystery novelist Will Adam’s writing talent.

An exciting escape from a murky Libyan cave in 318 BC is described so vividly the reader can almost taste the grit as the allure of an ancient mystery heightens to anticipate a good story.

The mystery then moves to the present day when unexpected discoveries in the Sinai, the Nile Delta, and a construction site in the famed city of Alexandria send a bevy or archeologists on the life and death trail of one of the most significant discoveries in history: the lost tomb of Alexander the Great; the courageous, veritable god and hero of the ancient Macedonian world.

The tightness of the archeological community finds the players of Will Adams’ The Alexander Cipher strangely entangled; some in uncommon and tragic ways ripe for development. Yet despite interesting background information, characters seem less robust than one had hoped. Each, however, has a unique reason to succeed, motivated by fame and fortune, the greater good, or the settling of an old score. This sets the stage for drama, murder, and exciting chase scenes where one can almost hear a John Williams score.

The fiction of the Alexander Cipher is generally infused with myth, legend, and recorded history, the details of which are both a blessing and a curse.

Kudos to Adams’ extensive research. It is clear he wants readers to understand the ancient back-story which is certainly interesting in its own right. However, although explained well, the account of battles, boundaries, and quests for power sometimes reads like excerpts from a history textbook and such can prove challenging to those without even a cursory knowledge of Alexander, Ptolemy, and Macedonia who want to remember the interconnections crucial to the novel.

Continuing the drama of the prologue with animated trips to the past may have provided a more exciting and gripping history lesson.

An advance warning for those interested in the complex archeological intrigue of The Alexander Cipher is to read the book carefully or even twice while using a keen analytical eye when mind and memory are sharp. This mystery novel is not mindless escapism, instead requiring close attention to detail to store away significant clues that will eventually connect all the dots.

The Alexander Cipher by Will Adams certainly has its moments but as a mystery produces mixed feelings. It would however make a good action flick.