The Genesis Secret (2010) by Tom Knox
Rob Luttrell has just recently witnessed an ugly suicide bombing in Baghdad while reporting on the war in the Iraq. His newspaper had ordered him out for some recuperation time, but now he wants to move on. Either to a new assignment or let him go home so he can see his daughter--if his ex will cooperate with his schedule. His editor decides to send him to Turkey for a "soft" job--just report on some stones and bones that are being dug up at place called Gobekli Tepe. If he turns in an informative, intelligent piece, then he can come straight back to England. He's not too keen, but once he gets to the site, meets the archaeologists (and one by the name of Christine in particular), and learns that the team has discovered the oldest known temple in the history of humankind. The details of the dig are interesting enough...but then he also learns about sabotage on site and Franz Breitner dies horribly in what looks like an accident, but Rob and Christine are sure was murder.
Meanwhile, back in the UK a series of incredibly grisly ritualistic murders has begun and DCI Forrester and his team are looking for connections. The rituals used are from different ancient religions and in each case it looks like the murderer was hunting for something as well as getting his sadistic jollies. When a link is discovered between the murders back home and what is happening in Turkey, things suddenly get much more personal for Rob and Christine--because the murderer has spotted the link as well. And that link, the object of the murderer's search, just might change the world's views on man's origins if it isn't destroyed first.
So, the archaeological premise of this was very interesting. I enjoyed the way Knox wove all the threads together to create a plausible theory of humankind's origins based on archaeological discoveries and also weaving Biblical stories into that theory. All the points for this novel go for that and the primary characters--Rob, Christine, DCI Forrester, and Officer Kiribali (in Turkey). I wish we had seen more of Isobel Previn and Professor Hugo De Savary because they were also interesting and quite distinct characters even in their brief moments in the plot.
Now on to my difficulties with the plot--first up, all the grisly details. I'm not a big fan of blood and gore all over the page. And I really need to feel like it's driving the story when it appears.* Here, I just felt like we were being drenched in blood for the sake of killing. Which, I suppose does work into the ritualistic theme and the psychotic nature of the killer, but it still seems far more gratuitous than necessary. Not to mention that if you're going to put characters through that sort of thing (as spectators--especially at the end), then once the killer is caught and those forced to watch the gruesome deeds released then you can't just make everything hunky-dory at the end. There's got to be some serious therapy in store for at least one (if not more) of these characters. But it's simply addressed in what is almost a throw-away conversation: "She's amazing. She seems to have, basically, forgotten it all. A little frightened of the dark. Think that was the hood." Right.
I won't say much about my take on Rob and his ex and her immediate friendship with his new girlfriend. Just that (as another reviewer on Goodreads says) only a man would think this was a natural outcome especially when Knox set the ex up as such a pain in the fanny about allowing Rob to see his daughter. And on top of it--that the ex would not go into a murderous rage when the girlfriend puts that daughter in danger. Sure, she gets mad at Rob for not instantly rescuing the girl--but doesn't even get a little upset at the new woman in his life? Again...Right.
I wanted to love this book. I like mysteries with an interesting historical or research twist. And the beginning chapters were very promising. It just didn't live up to that promising beginning. ★★ and 1/2
(*The books by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child are good examples--usually have high body counts, but I always feel like the deaths were necessary to move the plot along.)
First line: Alan Greening was drunk.
Last line: But his sense of loss was touched by something else, something much more surprising: the faint and fleeting shadow of happiness.
Deaths = 6 (one fell from height; three stabbed; one natural; one drowned)
[All I've got to say is if Knox was going to litter his book with so many deaths, the least he could have done is given every corpse a name so I could count them all towards the Medical Examiner Challenge.]