Ben Hope, has no family, all he has is his dedication to his specialized work. Determined to run away from his haunted past, Hope joined the Army, obtained certain skills (part of the elite SAS team) and now spends his time as the person to hire to return stolen children. He is the best in the business, and does not play the rules of law. Hope will stop at nothing, as long as it means saving a child. However, his most recent hirer, Fairfax, has something different in mind, his granddaughter Ruth is not missing, but is suffering from an incurable disease and will not survive much longer. He has hired Hope to find the document that contains the formula for the Elixir of Life, in the hope that it will cure his granddaughter. The formula is believed to be discovered in the 1920s but disappeared, along with it's creator Fulcanelli, neither of which have been seen since. It soon becomes apparent that there are others hunting for the document and each new lead Hope is in more danger, and those around him. But Hope does not care how much danger his life is in, all he can think about it helping Ruth.
This book was everything I wanted it to be. There was action, suspense and mystery, that kept you wanting to read more and more. There is also great character develop of Ben Hope, whose past we get to see into and why he has become such a hardened Man, but there are cracks in his armour, like why he chooses to spend his life rescuing kids. With a Secrets Society, the Gladius Domini, and clues to figure out, this book never lacked for mystery or suspense, which is part of the reason I couldn't put it down. I liked when code breaking was required by Hope, that Mariani, wrote the clues in the book so the reader could attempt to figure it out (not that I did as I don’t know Latin, but I always like a challenge). I also like Bozza, who is the inquisitor for the Gladius Domini and to say that he enjoyed his work is an understatement. I liked that the reader was also able to see into Bozza's past and mindset a bit, as it truly a scary character.
The only thing that I will criticize about the book (and really it is not that major of a thing) is that the Secret Society is a religious one. It always seems that when books have a secret society, there seems to be a large proportionate of them that are religiously based. Not a major thing, just wishing for a little more imagination. Additionally, the Gladius Domini continually talk about the amount of power and wealth it has, one would think they would hire better goons, so I guess that would be my second criticism, as when they found out who Ben Hope was and what he was capable of they should have sent better agents sooner (but still a minor thing).
If you are looking for a Dirk Pitt similar adventure, this is not it, there are not the seemingly impossible situations, though Hope is a good shot.
Mariani, I think, is going to become one of my must read authors especially if the second book is as good as the first. Read this book if you are craving mystery, suspense, adventure and a well written book. This book will not disappoint.
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