OK, here’s a good one. The publisher sent an advance review copy of D.J. McIntosh’s The Witch of Babylon to the new house. They delivered it to my front porch. You know, that place where no one ever walks, to the door that no one ever uses. Turns out it sat there for like 3 weeks before I found it.
So my post is late. But I read the book anyway, because it just looked like good fun. I’ve confessed before my love of archeology, and this one is about an ancient tablet caught up in the looting of Baghdad in 2003, so I dug in (pun intended) as soon as I finally visited the front porch.
The story concerns John Madison, a dealer in Mesopotamian antiquities, who is recovering from a car accident that killed his much older brother, Samuel. Unbeknownst to him, John’s frenemy, Hal, had stolen the tablet and hidden it in hopes of supporting his heroin habit, but he was in WAY over his head, and John finds Hal dead from an overdose of someone else’s doing. It turns out Hal has hidden the tablet and left a series of puzzles that only John can work out, but the people who killed Hal are now watching John so they can snatch the tablet as soon as he finds it. John’s not entirely alone, though; he starts working with Hal’s ex-wife Laurel and two of Samuel’s friends, following Hal’s clues to figure out where the tablet could be now.
I’ve never read/seen The DaVinci Code, but I’m told this story is somewhat like it, with a modern mystery based on historical artifacts. With visits to Turkey and war-torn Iraq, there’s a definite Indiana Jones adventure feel to the story, but with more art, history and religion mixed in. It seems like John’s always getting beaten up, kidnapped, blown up or drugged, yet he still manages to work out Hal’s puzzles and keep the story moving forward.
I have to confess that at times this book made me feel pretty stupid, particularly when John solved the puzzles and I still didn’t get what the question was, much less how he answered it. This is not to say that McIntosh didn’t explain things well, just that like Hal I was in over my head. After a while I quit trying to understand the puzzles and all the references to ancient kings and religious figures and just enjoyed the adventures instead.
So, if you liked “The DaVinci Code,” Indiana Jones, archeology, Mesopotamian culture, or ancient history, you should give The Witch of Babylon a try. It’s both fun and educational.
Many thanks to Alexis Nixon of Forge Publicity for sending a review copy and for her patience with my move.