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by Tom Knox
Viking, May 2013
368 pages
ISBN: 0670026646

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Aussie journalist Adam Blackwood, one of the main characters in the Tom Knox thriller THE BABYLON RITE, learns that historian Archibald McClintock, whom he has just interviewed, has died in a car crash. At this brief interview, Mclintock told Adam that everything he had written about in his life was wrong. As a writer who had spent his life debunking the idea of a Knights Templar cult, his final words seem quite strange. This crash appears to have been a suicide, but his daughter Nina suspects that he was murdered. Someone breaks into McClintock’s house and steals his notebooks, but Nina has his travel receipts, and she and Adam follow in her father’s footsteps from one country to another as they try to trace his movements and the evolution of his thinking on the Knights Templar. Green men licking leaves on church frescoes are amongst the clues that lead Adam and Nina to believe that what everyone is searching for is some sort of hallucinogenic drug. This drug use seems to be a link among many of the horribly violent tribes of both North and South America, the Aztecs, the Incas, the Moche, the Apaches.

This drug may also be related to the self-mutilations that are turning up in London. People are dying in gruesome ways, mutilating themselves and bleeding to death from amputated limbs and body parts. Adam and Nina become targets of some sadistic tattooed henchmen, as does Nina’s sister Hannah. Meanwhile, in Peru, a young anthropologist named Jess Silverton discovers proof that the sacrificial rituals portrayed on pottery from the ancient Moche tribe are actual reproductions of the gruesome killings and amputations that they engaged in. Adam and Nina show up in Peru as they continue to trace Nina’s father’s travels. The deaths in London, the death of McClintock, and the ancient tribal sacrifices must be connected and they must find the connection. Fighting enemies both inside herself and all around her, Jessie has to make some tough decisions about how she can help Adam and Nina as they are all chased by two horrifyingly violent and warring drug cartels.

Without giving away too much more, suffice it to say that their further adventures include an eventful boat trip on the Amazon, close encounters with vampire-like fish, kidnapping, and other near-death experiences. What keeps this thriller alive is the depth of information and background research that the author brings to his subject. The tale is fiction, but Knox has done considerable investigation into the tribal rites and anthropological details that he writes about. One motif is the way the characters look down on people carrying copies of Dan Brown’s THE DA VINCI CODE in the churches that have connection to the Knights Templar. Knox knows that his topic invites comparison with this widely-read author, but THE BABYLON RITE will have its own share of readers who want a fresh take on the whole theme and can tolerate, or perhaps even enjoy, the extreme violence depicted throughout.

§ Anne Corey is a writer, poet, teacher and botanical artist in New York's Hudson Valley.

Reviewed by Anne Corey, May 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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